A fragile ceasefire agreement ended nearly three days of fighting between Israeli and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip that lasted through the night into Monday morning – a sign that the latest round of violence appears to have subsided.
The outbreak is the worst fighting between Israel and Gaza militant groups since Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers fought an 11-day war last year, adding to the devastation and suffering that has plagued the blockaded Gaza Strip for years. .
Israeli planes have attacked targets in the Gaza Strip since Friday, while the Iranian-backed Palestinian jihadist group has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel.
During the three days of fighting, 43 Palestinians, including 15 children and four women, were killed and 311 wounded, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said. Israel said some of the dead were killed by blazing rockets.
Israel said on Monday it was partially reopening border crossings into Gaza out of humanitarian needs, and would fully reopen them if calm remained.
The lives of hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been disrupted by the violence. Security precautions imposed on residents of southern Israel in recent days are being gradually lifted, the military said.
The violence had the potential to turn into another full-scale war, but was eventually contained as Gaza’s ruling Hamas group stayed on the sidelines, possibly because it feared Israeli retaliation and undermined economic understanding with Israel, including Israel for thousands of Gaza residents were given work permits, which strengthened its control over the coastal strip.
Israel and Hamas have fought four wars since the group occupied the territory in 2007.
Israel launched a strike on Friday against an Islamic Jihad leader, saying Israelis were under a “specific threat” of anti-tank missile attacks following the arrest of another senior Islamic Jihad member in the West Bank last week. That arrest comes after months of Israeli raids in the West Bank to round up suspects in a spate of Palestinian attacks on Israel.
It killed another Islamic Jihad leader in a strike on Saturday.
Israel said some of the deaths in this round were caused by erroneous rocket launches, including an incident Saturday in the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza in which six Palestinians were killed. On Sunday, a projectile hit a home in the same area of Jabaliya, killing two men. Palestinians hold Israel responsible, while Israel has said it is investigating whether the area was hit by an errant rocket.
The outbreak of violence is a key test for Israeli caretaker Prime Minister Yair Rapide, who lacks experience leading military operations. Still, he went on the offensive less than three months before the election, and he is campaigning to keep the job.
President Joe Biden said he welcomed the ceasefire between Israel and Gaza militants.
“Over the past 72 hours, the United States has worked with officials from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan and other countries in the region to encourage a speedy resolution to the conflict,” he said in a statement on Sunday.
The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Monday over the violence. China, which holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council this month, arranged the meeting at the request of the United Arab Emirates and representatives of China, France, Ireland and Norway.
“We stress that we will do everything in our power to end the ongoing escalation, ensure the safety and security of civilians, and follow up on Palestinian prisoner files,” Tor Winsland, the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said in a statement.
The Israeli military said militants in the Gaza Strip fired around 580 rockets at Israel. The military said its air defenses intercepted many of them, two of whom were shot down, and opened fire on Jerusalem. Islamic Jihad has fewer fighters and supporters than Hamas.
Islamic Jihad has fewer fighters and supporters than Hamas, and little is known about its arsenal. Both groups have called for the destruction of Israel but have different priorities, with Hamas being limited by the demands of power.
Hamas has a strong incentive to avoid another war. Last year’s Israel-Hamas war was one of the four major conflicts, and there have been several smaller battles over the past 15 years that have taken a staggering toll on the impoverished region’s 2.3 million Palestinian residents.
Over the past year, Israel and Hamas have reached a tacit understanding based on a calm in exchange for work permits and a slight relaxation of the border blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt when Hamas occupied the territory 15 years ago. Israel has issued 12,000 work permits to Gaza workers and holds the prospect of issuing 2,000 more.
Goldenberg reported from Tel Aviv, Israel. Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.