Gaza fighting enters fourth day as hopes raised of truce brokered by Egypt

AFP  /  May 12, 2023

Israeli airstrikes continue after rockets fired from territory, amid signs ceasefire may be imminent.

Israel’s military has launched further strikes on Gaza after militants fired rockets from the territory, on the fourth day of fighting which has killed dozens of Palestinians and one in Israel.

The worst cross-border escalation in months has seen Egypt lead truce efforts, with hopes raised that a ceasefire may be imminent after talks failed earlier this week.

Gazans in the southern Rafah area said they witnessed three airstrikes on Friday, with Israel’s military announcing it fired on “military posts and concealed rocket launchers” of the Islamic Jihad militant group.

The latest strikes follow barrages of rockets fired on Thursday evening towards Israel by militants in the densely populated Gaza Strip, which killed one civilian in the central city of Rehovot.

At least 31 Palestinians have been killed, according to Gaza’s health ministry, including five top militants and multiple civilians, among them children.

Daily life in the coastal territory, ruled by Hamas, has largely come to a standstill, while Israel has told its citizens near Gaza to stay close to bomb shelters.

There was cautious optimism a truce may be nearing, with an Islamic Jihad source saying a deal drawn up by Cairo had been circulated among the group’s leadership.

“Israel must commit to stopping the assassinations in Gaza and the West Bank,” a second source within Islamic Jihad said, detailing the group’s key condition for a ceasefire.

Violence broke out Tuesday when Israel killed three leading members of the group, while subsequent strikes have killed two other senior figures.

More than 90 people have been wounded in Gaza, while Israel’s Magen David Adom emergency services has treated five people hit by shrapnel, glass or suffered blast injuries from the rocket fire.

The EU on Thursday called for an “immediate comprehensive ceasefire”, while the US urged that steps be “taken to ensure that violence is reduced”.

Both have blacklisted Islamic Jihad and Hamas as terror organizations.

The Israeli military said it has hit 170 Islamic Jihad targets this week, while 866 rockets have been fired from Gaza.

Israel said a quarter of the rockets fell inside Gaza and killed four, including three children, an accusation Islamic Jihad and Hamas did not respond to when approached by AFP.

This week’s escalation is the worst since August, when 49 Gazans were killed in three days of fighting between Islamic Jihad and Israel.

At least 19 of those killed were children, according to the UN, while rocket fire wounded three people in Israel.

That conflict followed multiple wars fought between Israel and Hamas since the group took control of Gaza in 2007.

An Israeli blockade imposed since then has made it impossible for most of 2.3 million residents to leave Gaza, where poverty and unemployment are rife.