Israel, Islamic Jihad Reach Cease-fire, Capping 48-hour Surge in Gaza Violence

Ending a surge of fighting in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel, a cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian came into effect Thursday morning, some 48 hours since the targeted assassination of top Islamic Jihad leader Baha Abu al-Ata, who was killed with his wife Asma.

– Haaretz Weekly 12/11

Haaretz WeeklyHaaretz

Islamic Jihad announced the cease-fire around 6 A.M. The Home Front Command announced a return to normalcy throughout the country, however restrictions are still imposed on communities near the Gaza border.

The calm puts an end to two days of hostilities that killed 32 more Palestinians in Israeli strikes in the Strip and wounded at least 111. The IDF Spokesperson Unit said the all the objectives of the operations, dubbed "Black Belt," were achieved.   

Among the fatalities were eight family members, including an Islamic Jihad commander and his five children who were killed Thursday early morning and a Palestinian and his two sons, aged 24 and 7, who were killed on Wednesday.   

Islamic Jihad launched some 450 rockets at southern and central Israel, but the army said its Iron Dome defense system intercepted 90 percent of them. Rockets were fired as far north as Tel Aviv, shutting schools and businesses and forcing one million Israeli children to stay at home, as well as causing some damages and minor injuries.

Read Wednesday's recap here ■ Netanyahu and Hamas chief in Gaza have emerged as unlikely allies ■ Netanyahu exploits Gaza flare-up to blast Joint List and isolate Israeli Arabs ■ Israel approved Abu al-Ata's assassination two years ago, but postponed it several times


10:56 A.M. Hours after calm reached, rocket alert sirens blare in Israeli communities near Gaza

The Israel army said it is looking into the matter.   

9:32 A.M. Some 450 Gaza rockets launched at Israel, army says

Some 450 rocket were launched from Gaza towards Israel since the killing of Islamic Jihad leader Tuesday early morning, the army said.

Some 60 percent of the projectiles fell in open areas, and 90 percent of the rockets fired at built-up areas were successfully intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system, the army added.

9:40 A.M. Israeli defense minister says 'it's not over yet'

Newly-appointed Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said that "some 20 terrorists were killed in the past 48 hours, but it's not over yet. Only actions on the ground will determine [the future]. 

Bennett stressed that "the new rules of the game are clear: The army will have complete freedom of action, with no restrictions. A terrorist who tries to hurt Israel's civilians, won't be able to sleep in peace."

9:11 A.M. Israeli army names Gaza operation 'Black Belt'

7:38 A.M. Israeli objectives achieved, official says

An Israeli official said that Jerusalem has "achieved the objectives of the operation in Gaza, including significantly harming Islamic Jihad, destroying infrastructure, and liquidating over than 20 terrorists."   

Israel won't shift its policy of hurting those who hurt us, said the official.   

7:46 A.M. Gaza's Health Ministry says death toll rises to 8 in Israeli attack on Deir al-Balah attack, including five youths

7:34 A.M. UN Mideast envoy says both sided must show maximum restraint

UN Mideast envoy Nickolay Mladenov said that the "United Nations and Egypt worked hard to prevent the most dangerous escalation in an around Gaza from leading to war. The coming hours and days will be critical. All must show maximum restraint and do their part to prevent bloodshed. The Middle East does not need more wars."

7:30 A.M. Israeli Education Ministry director general says schools will remain closed in Israeli communities near the Gaza border, resume in rest of the country

7:25 A.M. Home Front Command removes restrictions for Israeli communities north of Ashkelon

The Home Front Command removed all restrictions for communities north of the southern town of Ashkelon. Southern council heads will hold new situation assessments before deciding on new instructions.    

7:02 A.M. Barrage of rocket fired at Gaza border areas

Despite cease-fire announcement, rocket alarm sirens blare in Israeli areas near the northern Gaza strip.

6:26 A.M. Israelis, Palestinians wake up to mixed signals

Israeli local councils in the Gaza border area have decided to follow the Home Front Command's original orders.

6:11 A.M. Rocket alert sirens sound in the Gaza border area

Minutes after the cease-fire reportedly came into effect, rocket alert sirens rang out in Israeli communities near the Gaza border. 

6:02 A.M. Islamic Jihad says Israel 'agreed to its conditions'

A spokesman for the movement confirmed that the cease-fire had come into effect, "after the occupation surrendered to the conditions of the resistance," according to Kan public broadcaster. 

5:36 A.M. Israel, Islamic Jihad reach cease-fire agreement, report says

Israel and Islamic Jihad have reportedly agreed to cease hostilities in and around Gaza, according to Israeli public broadcaster Kan and Qatar-based news channel Al Jazeera. 

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The calm, which was brokered by Egypt, would see the Gaza militant group immediately ceasing all violence, while Israel agrees to stop targeted assassinations and live fire against protesters on the Gaza border fence.

2:35 A.M. Another barrage of rockets hits Israeli town and villages northeast of Gaza

Alert sirens sounded in and around Sderot . 

2:14 A.M. Death toll rises to 6, 12 wounded in Deir al-Balah attack

Gaza's Health Ministry said that six Palestinians were killed in an Israeli air strike on Deir al-Balah and 12 were wounded. 

All fatalities were civilians, According to medical sources on the ground.

1:35 A.M. Several dead in Israeli strike in central Gaza, Palestinian media reports

At least four Palestinians were killed in an Israeli strike in Deir al-Balah in Central Gaza, according to unconfirmed reports in Palestinian news outlets quoting the Red Crescent. Some reports mentioned that there were two women among the dead, and perhaps a small child.

At least 10 more were wounded, with responders still attempting to rescue survivors from the rubble.

1:21 A.M. Israel rescue services report eight injured from last volley of rockets on Ashdod

Eight Israeli civilians received medical attention, Magen David Adom said, including four people who were injured while seeking shelter, among them a young child, and four who were treated for anxiety.  

12:40 A.M. Another barrage of rockets hits southern Israel

Rocket alert sirens sounded in and around the port city of Ashdod.

This follows sporadic rocket fire on Ashkelon and on other Israeli communities near the Gaza border. 

11:49 P.M. Israeli airstrikes targeting Islamic Jihad posts 

Airstrikes carried out by the Israeli forces hit Islamic Jihad positions in Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

A compound used by the group's naval force as a training compound as well as a weapons storage facility were reportedly hit by the Israeli Navy.

11:38 P.M. 'Islamic Jihad’s attempts to create a false impression of achievements' Israeli official says

An Israeli political source said “the Islamic Jihad wants a cease-fire, and therefore trying to create a false impression of its achievements. The [Islamic] Jihad’s demands prove that the Israeli action has succeeded.”

The source added that “the actions on the ground will determine” if calm is restored. 

11:20 P.M. Israeli army resumes strikes on Gaza targets

The Israeli army resumed its attacks on Gaza, presumably in response to the latest rocket launched from the coastal enclave. 

11:13 P.M. Rocket salvo hits as far north as Rehovot, 25 km from Tel Aviv 

A barrage of rockets launched from Gaza has rained down on southern Israel, reaching as far as Rehovot, a city located less than 25 kilometers  south of Tel Aviv.  

No casualties were reported, according to Israel rescue services.

9:10 P.M. Islamic Jihad leader spells out cease-fire conditions, Beirut-based TV channel reports 

Islamic Jihad leader Ziyad Nahala presented his group's conditions for a cease-fire in Gaza in an interview with the Beirut-based Al Mayadeen television.

Nahala demanded that Israel ends its targeted killings and halts live fire against Gaza border protesters, in addition to easing the blockade imposed on the coastal enclave.  

The Islamic Jihad leader also noted that Egypt had engaged in mediation efforts immediately after al-Ata's killing.

"There is a draft agreement for the cease-fire and we expect an answer [from the Israelis] tonight," he said, adding that "Egypt is taking positive steps to promote calm."