Gaza: Palestinians in state of horror, as temporary ceasefire proposed

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  May 12, 2023

While Egypt has reportedly proposed a temporary truce, the Palestinian Joint Command says ‘fight’ is still on.

The fifth day of Israel’s latest assault on Gaza has entered with uncertainty hanging over a temporary ceasefire agreement, and Palestinians in the besieged Strip remain in a state of fear as Israeli air strikes escalated on Friday.

The offensive, dubbed “Operation Shield and Arrow” by Israel, has so far killed six senior members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second-largest armed group in Gaza after Hamas. The latest death, Iyad al-Hassani, was confirmed by Islamic Jihad on Friday. In total, the air strikes have killed 33 Palestinians. 

Meanwhile, the Palestinian group responded on Friday with more rocket fire aimed at Israel and its settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Dawud Shihab, spokesperson for Islamic Jihad, told Middle East Eye the rockets launched earlier on Friday at settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem were to send a message to Israel.

“The launching of rockets close to Jerusalem is a message that resistance groups are watching what is happening, particularly ahead of the Flag March which will take place soon,” he told MEE.

Shihab said Palestinian groups don’t have “huge demands” for a ceasefire.

“All we ask for is that Israel complies and ceases the killing and targeting of people,” he said.

In Israel, the one Israeli that was killed was identified as Inga Avramyan, a woman in her 80s. The organizers of the demonstrations against Israel’s judicial overhaul have also cancelled a protest on Saturday for the first time since they began 19 weeks ago.

Several reports late on Friday said that Egypt had proposed a temporary ceasefire in order to open the Karem Abu Salem and Beit Hanoun crossings and allow the entry of medical equipment.

However, neither side by the time of publishing had agreed to the deal. A spokesperson with Islamic Jihad told Al-Arabi TV that the armed group has not agreed to any proposals as of yet.

And even still amid these reports, the Joint Command, an umbrella body of armed groups in the Strip, including Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, released a short statement saying their “fight” is still on.

Damage to civilian infrastructure

Meanwhile, Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s far-right minister of finance, has said that Israel will eventually have to reconquer the Gaza Strip as 15 military operations in two decades have failed to defeat Palestinian resistance groups. 

Smotrich on Thursday called Israel’s constant fighting with Palestinian groups a “chronic problem” that must be dealt with once and for all. 

“The time will probably come to return to Gaza, disassemble Hamas and demilitarize Gaza. This too will be carried out according to the broad interests and considerations of the State of Israel,” he said in an interview with Channel 14. “I believe the moment will come when there won’t be a choice but to reconquer Gaza.”

His comments were echoed by National Missions Minister Orit Strock of the same Religious Zionism party. 

Israel unilaterally withdrew troops and settlements from Gaza in 2005 but maintained an air, sea and land blockade since.

In addition to the more than two dozen deaths, the air strikes in Gaza have led to major damage to civilian infrastructure and left many homeless.

A hospital in central Gaza had been damaged as a result of a strike on a house next to it. And the Gaza Electricity Authority warned the area could face critical power outages within 72 hours due to a lack of diesel fuel for the sole power plant in the enclave.

Israel has completely closed the crossings connecting it to Gaza since Tuesday, halting the entry of essential goods into the coastal enclave.

Gaza already suffers from a “chronic electricity deficit” due to the blockade that has been imposed for more than 15 years, resulting in increasing fragile living conditions for the population, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.