After 48 hours of heavy fighting between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a ceasefire officially went into effect, the IDF and the terror group confirmed Thursday morning.
Some 450 rockets were launched from Gaza towards Israel since the killing of senior PIJ commander Baha Abu al-Ata early Tuesday morning, the military said. About 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 air defense system.
IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman said Operation Black Belt achieved all of its objectives.
“We were able to attack cells and close the circle against targets very quickly,” said Zilberman. That’s what killed 25 terrorists who were in the midst of carrying out hostile activity.”
During the operation, Israeli forces struck dozens of PIJ targets across Gaza, including rocket caches, underground terror infrastructure, sites for manufacturing long-range rockets, training compounds, the headquarters of the Khan Younis Brigade, and others.
According to the IDF Spokesperson, “The purpose of the operation was to improve the security situation in the south by weakening the PIJ and the continued promotion of the stabilization process. In this operation, we struck a heavy blow to the PIJ’s operational capabilities.”
Newly-appointed Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said that the latest round is “not over yet. Only actions on the ground will determine the end.”
“The new rules of the game are clear: the IDF will operate with complete freedom of action, with no restrictions,” Bennett said. “A terrorist who tries to hurt the citizens of Israel will no longer be able to sleep peacefully.”
Islamic Jihad spokesman Musab al-Berim said the Egyptian-brokered deal went into effect at 5:30 a.m. He emphasized that the ceasefire was based on a list of demands presented by his group late Wednesday, including a halt to Israeli targeted killings of the group’s leaders.
A few hours before the ceasefire went into effect, the Israel Air Force attacked a house in the Deir al-Balah refugee camp, killing Rasmi Abu Malhus, commander of the rocket launching unit in the Islamic Jihad central division. Seven family members were reportedly killed as well.
According to the Gaza health ministry, the death toll in the two days of fighting had risen to 34, and at least 111 were wounded.
[Sources: Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, Ynet, The Jewish Press, Al Jazeera]