Islamic Jihad says Gaza truce agreed with Israel: Officials

Al-Jazeera  /  May 13, 2023

Egypt-brokered ceasefire between Israel, Palestinian group in the besieged Gaza Strip went into effect at 19:00 GMT.

Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group in Gaza have agreed to a truce that has officially been in effect since 10pm (19:00 GMT), Palestinian officials have said, signaling an end to the worst episode of cross-border fire since a 10-day war in 2021.

Egypt, which brokered the ceasefire, called on all sides to adhere to the agreement, Egypt’s Al-Qahera News television channel reported on Saturday.

 “In the light of the agreement of the Palestinian and the Israeli side, Egypt announces a ceasefire between the Palestinian and the Israeli side has been reached,” read a text of the agreement seen by Reuters, and added the truce would begin at 10pm.

“The two sides will abide by the ceasefire which will include an end to targeting civilians, house demolition, an end to targeting individuals immediately when the ceasefire goes into effect,” it said.

Islamic Jihad confirmed a truce had been reached. “We declare our acceptance of the Egyptian announcement and we will abide by it as long as the occupation [Israel] abides by it,” said the group’s spokesman, Dawoud Shehab.

The Israeli military confirmed to Al-Jazeera that there will be a “situational assessment” regarding the ceasefire, according to Willem Marx reporting from Ashkelon, Israel.

“[The assessment involves] probably the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, but also the Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and of course, definitely that would involve some of the senior military intelligence officials over the course of the next hour or so,” Marx said.

“The Israeli military saying to us that their determination whether the ceasefire is successful will be completely based on whether there is further rocket fire from Gaza as you can imagine,” he added.

Shortly before the truce was to take hold, Israel reported a heavy burst of Palestinian rocket fire towards southern and central Israel, while Israel said it was attacking targets inside Gaza. After the 10pm deadline, Israel reported additional rocket fire, and Israeli media said warplanes were responding.

The latest violence erupted Tuesday when Israeli air raids killed three senior Islamic Jihad commanders. Israel said the attacks were in response to a previous burst of rocket fire the previous week and that its attacks have been focused on Islamic Jihad targets.

But residents in Gaza said homes of people uninvolved in fighting also had been struck.

In response, Islamic Jihad fired more than 1,000 rockets, sending Israelis fleeing into bomb shelters.

The fighting has killed 33 Palestinians inside Gaza, including at least 13 civilians. Two people were killed by rocket fire in Israel, including an 80-year-old Israeli woman and a Palestinian man from Gaza who had a permit to work in Israel.

Islamic Jihad spurns coexistence with Israel and preaches its destruction. Top ministers of Israel’s religious nationalist government rule out any state sought by Palestinians in territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.



Cairo calls on all sides to adhere to agreement, set to take effect on Saturday

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  May 13, 2023

Israel and Palestinian leadership in the Gaza Strip agreed to an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire that took effect at 10 pm, local time on Saturday. 

Israel agreed to the ceasefire while rejecting the Islamic Jihad’s demand that Israel end all targeted assassinations Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported, citing an official Israeli source.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office thanked Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for Egypt’s “resolute efforts” to broker a truce.

The Israeli announcement added that “quiet will be answered with quiet, and if Israel is attacked or provoked, it will do whatever is necessary to defend itself”. 

For its part, Cairo called on all sides to adhere to the agreement, Egypt’s Al-Qahera News television channel reported.

“The two sides will abide by the ceasefire which will include an end to targeting civilians, house demolition, an end to targeting individuals immediately when the ceasefire goes into effect,” a text of the agreement seen by Reuters read. 

Missile strikes from both sides were reported in the minutes before the 10 pm deadline, with Israel’s military announcing it had hit six operational command posts of Islamic Jihad group.

‘If you return, we will return’

Following the deadline, however, a fragile quiet took hold, with the Joint Command, an umbrella body of armed groups in the Strip, including Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, warning Israel against any further attacks. 

“The resistance forces [in Gaza] are concluding the conflict united and resolute, and caution the enemy against returning to the policy of targeted killings. We are ready with a firm hand on the trigger, and if you return, we will return,” the group said in a statement after the truce set in. 

There had been mounting calls for a ceasefire to be agreed, including from Israel’s closest ally, the United States.

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, in a call to Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, “stressed the urgency of reaching a ceasefire agreement in order to prevent any further loss of civilian life”, the State Department said.

Saturday marked the fifth day of Israel’s bombardment on the Gaza Strip, which has left at least 33 Palestinians dead, at least one-third of whom were confirmed to have been civilians. 

Israel’s offensive, dubbed “Operation Shield and Arrow”, also killed six senior members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second-largest armed group in Gaza after Hamas. 

‘No choice but to flee’

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

Moayed al-Bahri, a resident of Gaza’s Beit Lehia, recounted to Middle East Eye the “terrifying” moments air strikes hit his neighbourhood. 

“I was sleeping when my wife woke me up to flee as Israel had warned our neighbour’s house, the Banat family,” Bahri said.

“Me and my neighbours had no choice but to flee. Men, women, young and old were screaming. The scene was terrifying. We fled far away to a house where our relatives live.”

He noted that Israel had bombed the house with a “high explosive rocket”, which caused heavy damage.

Meanwhile, officials in Gaza warned on Saturday that it would have no choice but to close down the besieged territory’s only power plant unless Israel reopens its border crossing to let in emergency fuel. 

The state-run WAFA agency reported that the power plant sustained heavy damage during Israel’s latest bombardment on Gaza. 

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.

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

Gaza already suffers from a “chronic electricity deficit” due to the blockade, resulting in increasing fragile living conditions for the population, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.


Ceasefire between Israel and Islamic Jihad in Gaza area takes effect

AFP  /  May 13, 2023

Dozens of rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza, prompting airstrikes in return, in the half-hour leading up to the truce.

A ceasefire has taken effect in and around the Gaza Strip after five days of cross-border exchanges that have killed at least 33 Palestinians in Gaza and two people in Israel.

The truce was due to take effect at 10pm local time (20.00 BST) on Saturday, Egyptian and Palestinian sources said. But, in the final 30 minutes before, dozens of rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel, prompting renewed airstrikes, AFP correspondents in the territory said.

Most of the rockets were intercepted by Israeli air defences.

Egypt, a longtime mediator in Gaza, secured the agreement of both Israel and Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad to its latest ceasefire proposal, an Egyptian security official said.

“Israel’s National Security adviser Tsahi Hanegbi … thanked Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and expressed the State of Israel’s appreciation for Egypt’s vigorous efforts to bring about a ceasefire,” a statement from the Israeli prime minister’s office said.

He said Israel’s response to the Egyptian initiative means “quiet will be answered by quiet, and if Israel is attacked or be threatened it will continue to do everything it needs to do in order to defend itself”.

A Palestinian source confirmed Islamic Jihad’s agreement.

“We want to thank Egypt for its efforts,” Islamic Jihad political department official Mohammad al-Hindi told AFP. He has been in Cairo since the fighting erupted on Tuesday.

On Saturday, Israel had again pounded Gaza with airstrikes targeting Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad after a new barrage of rocket fire into Israel to mark the funeral of its military commander Iyad al-Hassani, who was killed on Friday.

For days, life in Gaza and in Israeli communities near the border has been a daily routine of airstrikes and sirens warning of incoming rocket fire.

Residents in the crowded Gaza Strip cowered indoors as the fighting raged, with streets empty and only a few shops and pharmacies open.

“The whole Palestinian people are suffering,” Muhammad Muhanna, 58, told AFP in the ruins of his home. “What have we done?”

In Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, a dead donkey lay in the ruins of a row of buildings levelled in an Israeli strike.

“No one is safe in their homes,” said Imad Rayan, 64.

A spokesperson for the interior ministry in Gaza said on the final day of its campaign the Israeli military had concentrated on “targeting civilians, residential and civilian buildings”.

There had been mounting calls for a ceasefire to be agreed, including from Israel’s closest ally, the US.

The US deputy secretary of state, Wendy Sherman, in a call to the Israeli strategic affairs minister, Ron Dermer, “stressed the urgency of reaching a ceasefire agreement in order to prevent any further loss of civilian life”, the state department said.

Egypt had kept up its mediation effort despite repeated setbacks.

On Saturday, shrapnel from a rocket fired from Gaza hit a building site in Sdot Negev, just over the border into Israel, killing one man and wounding another. Both were day labourers from Gaza.

Islamic Jihad said its fighters were pursuing “missile strikes on Israeli cities” in revenge for Israeli “assassinations” of their commanders and strikes on populated areas.

The exchange of fire came after the Palestinian health ministry reported the death of two men aged 19 and 32 in an Israeli army raid on a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus.

The Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said the two men killed in the raid were members of its armed wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

The current bout of violence erupted on Tuesday when Israeli strikes on Gaza killed three leading Islamic Jihad members. Three other senior figures from the Palestinian militant group were killed in later strikes.

They are among at least 33 lives lost in the fighting inside Gaza, according to the territory’s health ministry.

There have been two deaths in Israel, one of them the day labourer from Gaza.

The army said nearly 1,100 rockets had been fired from Gaza towards Israel in the current fighting, including 300 intercepted by its air defences.