Israel, Islamic Jihad hold fragile truce

A fragile ceasefire between Israel and Gaza’s Islamic Jihad group appeared to be holding into Monday, in a sign of restoring the calm in the region.

The ceasefire deal, mediated by Cairo, came into effect on Sunday at 11:30 p.m. local time (2030 GMT).

It followed three days of deadly Israeli airstrikes and barrages of rockets fired by Islamic Jihad militants at cities in southern and central Israel.

On Monday morning, Israel partially reopened crossings into the Gaza Strip for humanitarian aid, the Israeli military’s liaison to the Palestinians Ghassan Alian said in a statement.

Israeli state-owned Kan TV news reported that Israel also allowed some fuel tanks to enter Gaza, bringing oil to the coastal Palestinian enclave for the first time since Israel closed the crossings last week.

The closure of the crossings caused fuel shortage that shut down Gaza’s sole power plant on Saturday.

At noon, Israel lifted the restrictions that required Israeli residents in the southern areas to remain indoors.

“In accordance with the situational assessment, the decision was made to remove all safety restrictions,’’ the army said in a statement.

The train service in the south was resumed and roadblocks in the areas near the Gaza Strip, imposed last week in the wake of the tension, were lifted.

“If the ceasefire is violated, Israel maintains the right to respond strongly,’’ Lior Hayat, head of the National Public Diplomacy Directorate, warned in a statement issued on Sunday night.

Ran Kochav, the Israeli military’s spokesman, told Army Radio that 1,100 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip during the escalation, with 200 landing inside Gaza.

The rockets sent residents of southern communities and major cities including Tel Aviv to shelters.

No Israeli fatalities had been reported but one person, a Palestinian man from Hebron who worked in the Israeli city of Ashkelon, was lightly-to-moderatly  injured by a rocket that hit a factory on Saturday and a few people were treated for panic or heart attack caused by the sirens.

In Gaza, at least 44 Palestinians, including 15 children and four women, were killed, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza.

At least 360 more were wounded and several buildings were destroyed.

“I hope that in a few days the situation would be normal,’’ Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman with the UN aid agency of UNRWA, told Israel’s Reshet Bet public radio.

There were many attacks and fear, children were killed, and houses were destroyed.

The situation was very difficult and the overwhelming majority of people in Gaza blamed Israel.

He said the people had been under blockade for 15 years. If this negative energy did not have a solution, there would be another round (of violence).

According to Israel, some of the fatalities were killed by Islamic Jihad’s failed attempts to fire rockets at Israel.

“More Palestinians had died from cases of rocket misfire by the Islamic Jihad than from IDF (Israel Defence Forces) fire,’’ Kochav said.

He added that Israel would investigate the deaths of civilians, including children.

It was the most serious flare-up since the 11-day war between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers in May 2021.

The violence began on Friday when Israel launched an airstrike that killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander and unleashed Operation Breaking Dawn.

Israel said that the operation was needed to thwart an attack planned by the Iranian-backed group.

Gaza, home to more than two million people, had been under a crippling blockade since 2007.

Under Israel’s restrictive policy, only a very limited number of people and goods were allowed in and out of Gaza, causing a chronic shortage of fuel and goods.

Israel seized the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East war and controlled them ever since.

The Palestinians wished to build their future state in these territories.