Israel-Gaza border quiets after cease-fire

The Israel-Gaza border fell quiet yesterday under a de facto cease-fire after the most intense flare-up of hostilities between Palestinian militants and Israel since a 2014 war.

The Israel-Gaza border fell quiet Wednesday under a de facto cease-fire after the most intense flare-up of hostilities between Palestinian militants and Israel since a 2014 war.

Militants from Hamas, the dominant group in Gaza, and Islamic Jihad fired dozens of rockets and mortar bombs at southern Israel throughout Tuesday and overnight, to which Israel responded with tank and air strikes on more than 50 targets in the small, coastal enclave.

There were no reports of further attacks after Hamas announced early Wednesday that it would cease fire if Israel did the same. Israel signaled it would halt its strikes if the rocket barrages stopped.

But even during the fighting, both sides appeared bent on avoiding wider conflict after weeks of violence along the fenced border.

Hamas did not launch long-range rockets at Israel’s heartland, even as salvoes from Gaza interrupted daily life in small Israeli border communities. Israeli forces targeted encampments that appeared to have been vacated in anticipation of attack.

No deaths were reported by militant groups or by Israel, which said three of its soldiers were wounded by shrapnel from projectiles.

A Palestinian official said Egyptian mediation led to a cease-fire, and terms of the “understanding” did not go beyond “a restoration of calm by both sides.”

Hamas had largely abided by an Egyptian-brokered truce that ended the seven-week Gaza war four years ago.

In Israeli towns near the frontier, where rocket warning sirens sounded frequently on Tuesday, schools reopened Wednesday morning.

Israel stopped short of declaring any formal cease-fire with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but said any resumption of Palestinian attacks would bring a stronger military response.

“I believe there is indirect agreement with Hamas to end the current round (of fighting),” Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet, said on Israel Radio.

“It all depends on Hamas,” Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said in a separate interview with the radio.

Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shehab, acknowledging a cease-fire was in effect, said its success would depend on “whether Israel will refrain from any military escalation against Gaza.”

Both Hamas and the pro-Iran Islamic Jihad said they fired their salvoes in response to Israel’s killing of at least 116 Palestinians since March 30 in Gaza border protests.

Islamic Jihad had vowed revenge in response to Israeli tank shelling that killed three of its men on Sunday after explosives were planted along the Gaza frontier fence.

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