A ceasefire between Israel and the Gaza terror groups went into effect at 4:30 am, ending two days of intense fighting that saw more than 600 rockets (Fox News has just reported the number was 700 rockets) fired into Israel and four civilians killed, Arabic-language media reported early Monday, citing sources in the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups.
The Iron Dome intercepted 173 rockets, according to Channel 12.
While Israel, which does not officially speak with Hamas, did not confirm the news, the military did lift security restrictions in the south and most schools said they would open, indicating that a truce had indeed been reached.
An Egyptian official confirmed the deal to AFP on condition of anonymity.
The apparent ceasefire, whose terms were not immediately clear, came after several hours of quiet and after a previously reported truce was punctured by rocket fire and airstrikes.
Late Sunday, Hebrew and Arabic media reported that mediators from Egypt and the European Union were on the verge of successfully brokering a ceasefire between Israel and terror groups in the coastal enclave.
The reports cited a Western diplomat, who said the agreement would go into effect around midnight. United Nations Middle East envoy Nikolay Mladenov was said to be mediating the talks along with Egyptian intelligence officials.
But as midnight came, the IDF continued to strike targets in Gaza and rocket sirens were heard across southern Israel. A salvo of rockets fired at the Ashkelon area was intercepted by the Iron Dome system. There were no reports of injuries.
There were no further rockets or airstrikes after 2:00 a.m.
Arabic media reports said the original ceasefire bid had floundered over an Israeli refusal to allow Qatari cash into Gaza. Hamas was adamant it wanted the money ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which starts Monday in the Palestinian territories and much of the Muslim world.
An Islamic Jihad official told AFP the truce agreement was based on Israel easing its blockade of the Gaza Strip. Among the steps, he said, were the easing of limits on fishing and improvements in Gaza’s electricity and fuel situation.
Israel did not comment on reports of the deal. In the past it has refrained on confirming similar arrangements with Gaza terror groups, even denying reported ceasefires that went on to hold for days, weeks or months at a time.
But the IDF on Monday morning did say it was lifting all emergency measures for residents of southern Israel, indicating it did not expect any more rocket fire from Gaza.
Schools in Beersheba, Sderot, Yavne, and Kiryat Malachi announced that there will be classes, as usual, today, while school in the Eshkol, Shaar Hanegev, and Sdot Negev regions, which are closer to the Strip, is still canceled.
Shortly after midnight, the Gaza terror groups said the fighting would continue until Israel gave in to their demands and acknowledged the understandings reached.
“The battle will not end until the occupation responds affirmatively to our people’s demands,” the Joint Command Center of Armed Palestinian factions in Gaza said in a statement early Monday.
“We will not allow the settlers to leave their shelters as long as the enemy’s leadership denies its understandings with the resistance,” it said.
On Sunday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said that restoring calm in and around the Gaza Strip would be possible if Israel agreed to stop all retaliatory strikes in the Palestinian enclave.
A senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad official said the group would also be willing to hold its fire if Israel agreed to its “obligations” — an apparent reference to pledges from Jerusalem last month to ease restrictions around the Gaza Strip and allow $30 million dollars in Qatari aid into the coastal enclave.
On Sunday night, the Israeli military said it bombed some 40 “terror targets” in the Gaza Strip in its latest round of airstrikes, bringing the IDF’s total number of raids up to 320 in the past two days. The military said it targeted “observation headquarters, underground bunkers, weapons caches, military facilities, launchpads, observation posts and more” in its most recent air raids.
The army said it targeted sites connected to both the Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza, and the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad. Palestinian medical officials reported 29 dead since Friday, including at least 11 terrorists, The Times of Israel confirmed.
The high-level security cabinet huddled for five hours on Sunday over the violence, which killed four Israeli civilians in a single day, the deadliest casualty rate for Israel since the 2014 Gaza war.
Following the meeting, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a brief statement saying that the army has been instructed: “to continue the strikes and prepare for them to continue.”
The statement added that the government’s “main consideration is the security of the state and its citizens.” That appeared to refer to claims that Israel might cave to the demands of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in order to prevent the fight from continuing into Israel’s Memorial and Independence Days later this week and the international Eurovision Song Contest planned for May 14-18 in Tel Aviv.
As of Sunday evening, in addition to the dead, at least 10 people were injured by shrapnel from rockets, missiles and mortar shells from the Gaza Strip, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.
Fifty-eight-year-old father of four Moshe Agadi was the first fatality after being rushed to Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center with shrapnel wounds he sustained when the rocket hit his home in the city at around 2:30 a.m. Sunday.
In a barrage aimed at the same southern city later in the day, a rocket directly hit a factory, killing Zaid al-Hamamdeh, a 47-year-old father of seven, and injuring two others.
A short while later, a third man, Moshe Feder, 60, was fatally wounded when an anti-tank guided missile slammed into his car as he was driving along the Route 34 highway near the community of Kibbutz Erez, just north of the Gaza border. He sustained a serious shrapnel wound to the leg, causing significant blood loss. Feder was pronounced dead at Barzilai Medical Center after CPR efforts failed. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
On Sunday evening, a fourth man was killed after being struck by rocket shrapnel while running for cover in the southern city of Ashdod, medics said. Pinchas Menachem Prezuazman, 21, was survived by his wife and son. He was laid to rest in Jerusalem.
Please continue to pray that peace will come to the Holy Land and that God’s will be done.
Source: The Jerusalem Post/Israel, Islam and End Times