Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza agreed to a ceasefire late Sunday, a move expected to end a three-day conflict that has killed dozens of Palestinians, including militant commanders, but did little to change the status quo. did. Israel and the Occupied Territories.
The conflict, which began on Friday afternoon, when Israel launched airstrikes from Gaza, paralyzed parts of southern Israel to thwart an impending attack and resulted in the destruction of several residential buildings and terrorist targets in Gaza. .
According to Palestinian health officials, forty Palestinians, including 15 children, were killed in the fighting. Scores of Israelis suffered minor injuries while running to hide from Palestinian rockets, and many were injured by shrapnel. Broadcasters said an unexploded rocket struck a residential area in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon.
The central dynamic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which includes the 15-year blockade of Gaza, nevertheless remains, and escalation this weekend put both sides as far from the prospect of peace talks as ever. But the fighting exposed rising tensions between the militias leading this latest fight against Islamic Jihad, Israel, and the Gaza-run militia Hamas, which opted to remain on the fringes of the conflict.
The fighting has badly damaged Islamic Jihad, Gaza’s second largest militia. Two of its key leaders are now dead and many of its bases and weapons factories have been destroyed – factors that allowed Israel to claim victory in this round of fighting.
A senior Israeli official said in a statement that Israel had completed “an accurate and effective operation that meets all of its strategic objectives.”
The ceasefire officially took effect at 11:30 p.m. local time and lasted until Monday morning, except for one rocket fired 20 minutes later.
Israel declined to reveal further details about the agreement, but Islamic Jihad said it had received assurances from Egyptian officials who mediated the talks that two key members of the Egyptian group, Bassem Saadi and Khalil Awadh, would be released. Will advocate for Israel to do so. who are currently lodged in Israeli prisons.
The conflict exposed both the limitations and strengths of Israel’s strategy of making small economic concessions to General Gazan – in particular 14,000 work permits to help improve the Palestinian economy.
The approach failed to prevent another conflict on an enclave that has experienced at least six major outbursts of violence since the capture of Gaza by Hamas in 2007. But by helping to persuade Hamas to stay out of this particular conflict, the strategy probably helped reduce the length of the fighting, which in the past often lasted weeks instead of days.
Within Israel, the conflict also initially appeared to help ignite the credibility of Israel’s interim prime minister, Yair Lapid, who has long been criticized by critics in Israel for the lack of experience needed to lead the country in times of war. has been accused of.
Before agreeing to a ceasefire, Israeli analysts largely portrayed the episode as a victory and even a warning to Israel’s other enemies in the region – particularly in Lebanon. The Islamic militia Hezbollah – what awaits them, should they also enter into full-scale combat with Israel in the near future.
In contrast, with no change in life or prospects in Gaza and the West Bank, Palestinians had little to celebrate and many families mourning the loss of life. was ashamed of islamic jihad Video Which shows his rockets hitting bad and civilian areas in Gaza.
Ibrahim Dalal, director of the Horizon Center, a Palestinian political research group, said: “In fairness, Israel will win if the ceasefire continues.” “They have isolated Islamic Jihad. Other than saying ‘we fired rockets,’ Islamic Jihad really doesn’t have anything concrete to tell the people. And Hamas did not participate because they have a lot to lose, which is an achievement for Israel.”
The fighting also highlighted the growing acceptance of Israel by some parts of the Arab world. The previous Gaza wars have been heavily criticized by other Arab countries. This time, the response was more muted.
Morocco and the United Arab Emirates, two of the three Arab countries to have formal ties with Israel in 2020, Express anxiety About violence but avoided criticism of Israel. Only third country, Bahrain, directly condemned Israel attacks.
But in broader terms, analysts said, the fighting was little successful for Israel or the Palestinians.
By launching strikes on Friday in which prominent terrorist leaders were killed, Israel curbed what it said was an imminent threat from Islamic Jihad. But the widespread standoff in Gaza will continue as long as Hamas is in power there, as the group is still unwilling to recognize Israel or disband its militias, which does not prepare Israel to end its blockade. , which is jointly maintained with Egypt.
The weekend’s war prevented a “bomb from ticking” but “will not bring about strategic change in Gaza,” said Tzipi Livni, a former senior Israeli minister and key negotiator with the Palestinians.
He said Israel has not had a clear strategy for Gaza since unilaterally withdrew from the enclave in 2005.
“And when you don’t know what you want to achieve in the long run,” said Ms. Livney, “you go from one round of battle to another.”
In the short term, however, recent Israeli economic concessions to Gaza have encouraged Hamas to take a less aggressive approach while it rebuilds after a protracted war last year.
According to UNICEF, about two million people live in Gaza, almost half of them unemployed, and only one in 10 of them have access to clean water.
Since the last war, Israel has offered work permits to 14,000 Gaza residents – a small number in relative terms, but a record number since Hamas seized power in 2007, and a significant number to thousands of families in the enclave. Enough to provide a financial lifeline.
Aware of losing that concession, Hamas has now begun to “act more rationally”, Mr Dalalsha said. “They haven’t really recovered from last year’s trauma, and they are more concerned with continuing the easing and easing of sanctions on Gaza.”
Before the fighting began, Mr. Lapid was accused of taking a very passive approach to Islamic Jihad. The group threatened retaliation from Gaza following the arrest of a senior leader in the occupied West Bank. In response, Mr Lapid closed several roads near Gaza and imposed curfews on Israeli communities near the border to keep residents out of the militants’ range.
Mr Lapid already had a reputation for being weak on national security, unlike his main rival Benjamin Netanyahu, who built a wealth of experience as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.
But by launching airstrikes on Friday, Mr Lapid improved his starting position in the political race, analysts said, as long as the campaign ends with little cost in terms of casualties on the Israeli side.
On Sunday, Mr Lapid scored a public relations victory when he was photographed giving Mr Netanyahu a formal security briefing – a symbolic gesture of how the balance of power between the two men has shifted.
But Mr Lapid has also been careful to share responsibility and the stage with his defense minister, Benny Gantz, a former military chief – and that means sharing credit.
“Now Lapid has acquired the image of a prime minister who has led a military campaign,” said Gail Talshir, a political scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “But it is clear that the brain, planning and preparation will be more associated with Gantz than with Lapid,” Dr. Talshir said.
However, air strikes in Gaza have brought more misery and uncertainty.
Ghassan Abu Ramzan, 65, a retired civil engineer who was killed during an Israeli strike on Friday, was recovering in hospital during Sunday’s ceasefire talks.
“We have a complicated life here in Gaza, we don’t know what will happen, what our future will be,” said Mr. Abu Ramzan, lying on a bed in the Intensive Care Unit of Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.
“How long will this continue?” Mr Abu Ramzan added.
Raja Abdulrahim, Fadi Hanona, Gabi Sobelman, Carol Sutherland and Iyad Abu Huwla contributed reporting.