By FARES AKRAM and TIA GOLDENBERG
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — With a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in effect after nearly three days of violence, Gaza’s only power plant resumed operations on Monday as Israel began to reopen the crossing points to the territory.
Israel also lifted security restrictions on communities in southern Israel after the Egyptian-brokered truce took effect Sunday night. The fighting subsided and war-weary residents of Gaza and Israel found themselves picking up the pieces after another round of violence – the worst since an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas last year .
Since Friday, Israeli warplanes have shot down targets in Gaza while the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel.
In three days of fighting, 44 Palestinians were killed, including 15 children and four women, and 311 were injured, the Palestinian health ministry said. Islamic Jihad said 12 of those killed were militants. Israel said some of the dead were killed by rockets fired from Gaza. No Israelis were killed.
The violence had threatened to escalate into another all-out war, but was contained because Gaza’s ruling Hamas group stayed away, possibly fearing Israeli retaliation and the rollback of economic deals with Israel, including Israeli work permits for thousands of Gaza residents who bolster Hamas. ‘ the control of the coastal strip.
Israel and Hamas have fought four wars since the group invaded the territory in 2007. Hamas had strong pressure to avoid more conflict, which took a heavy toll on the impoverished territory’s 2.3 million Palestinian residents .
The outbreak of violence in Gaza has been a key test for Israeli interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who lacks experience in conducting military operations. He launched the offensive less than three months before a general election in which he is campaigning to keep his job – and may have gained political ground with it.
Israel began reopening crossings into Gaza for humanitarian needs on Monday and said it would open them fully if calm was maintained. Tankers were seen entering the main cargo crossing point heading for the power station, which was decommissioned on Saturday after Israel closed the crossings to Gaza last week.
It has added to the misery at the height of the summer heat in the territory, which is under a sweltering Israeli-Egyptian blockade and suffers from a chronic electricity crisis that leaves residents with just a few hours of electricity a day.
The lives of hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been disrupted by the violence. Israel’s sophisticated Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted numerous rockets launched at Israel and no significant injuries were reported.
Israel kicked off its operation on Friday with a strike on an Islamic Jihad leader, saying there were ‘concrete threats’ of anti-tank missile attacks against Israelis in response to the arrest last week of another operative important part of Islamic Jihad in the West Bank. The arrest came after months of Israeli raids in the West Bank to round up suspects following a series of Palestinian attacks on Israel.
He killed another Islamic Jihad leader in a strike on Saturday.
Both sides bragged about their successes. Speaking to reporters in Tehran on Sunday, Islamic Jihad leader Ziad al-Nakhalah said the militant group remained strong, despite the loss of two of its leaders. “This is a victory for Islamic Jihad,” he said.
Despite this claim, the group undoubtedly suffered a blow during the ferocious offensive. Beyond the loss of the two leaders, she reduced her arsenal by firing hundreds of rockets.
Israel said some of the deaths in Gaza were caused by rocket fire from roving militants, including at the Jebaliya refugee camp, where six Palestinians were killed on Saturday. On Sunday, a projectile hit a house in the same neighborhood of Jebaliya, killing two men. The Palestinians held Israel responsible for Sunday’s attack, while Israel said it was investigating whether the area had been hit by failed rockets.
The ceasefire agreement contained a promise that Egypt would work for the release of two senior Islamic Jihad operatives held by Israel, but there was no guarantee that would happen. The weekend fighting was also expected to complicate Islamic Jihad’s relationship with Hamas.
A senior Israeli diplomat said the offensive was successful and had set back Islamic Jihad’s capabilities “decades”, citing the loss of the two leaders and damage to the group’s rocket production and firing capabilities, among other blows. He spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to discuss the operation with the media.
US President Joe Biden welcomed the ceasefire.
“Over the past 72 hours, the United States has worked with officials from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, and others in the region to encourage an early resolution to the conflict,” he said in a statement on Sunday.
In the occupied West Bank on Monday, Israeli troops demolished the homes of two Palestinians suspected of carrying out a deadly attack on Israelis in the town of Elad in May. The soldiers faced a violent protest during the operation, the army said.
The UN Security Council was due to hold an emergency meeting on the violence on Monday. China, which holds the council’s presidency this month, scheduled the session in response to a request from the United Arab Emirates, which represents Arab nations on the council, as well as China, France, Ireland and Norway.
“We underline our commitment to do everything possible to end the ongoing escalation, ensure the safety and security of the civilian population and follow up on the file of Palestinian prisoners,” said Tor Wennesland, special coordinator of the United Nations united for the peace process in the Middle East. , in a report.
The Israeli military said militants in Gaza fired around 1,100 rockets at Israel, of which around 200 landed inside the Palestinian enclave. The army said its air defenses intercepted 380, including two fired at Jerusalem. The military did not say what happened to the others, but they likely fell in open areas or shattered in the air.
Islamic Jihad has fewer fighters and supporters than Hamas, and little is known about its arsenal. Both groups call for the destruction of Israel, but have different priorities, with Hamas constrained by government demands.
Over the past year, Israel and Hamas have reached tacit agreements based on the exchange of calm for work permits and a slight relaxation of the border blockade, imposed by Israel and Egypt when Hamas invaded the territory 15 years ago. Israel has issued 12,000 work permits to workers in Gaza and plans to grant another 2,000 permits.
Goldenberg reported from Tel Aviv, Israel. Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.