Israel Shows Restraint, Waits to See if Ceasefire Holds

Jerusalem, Aug. 22 - In an effort to usher in calmness after four days of escalating violence with Gaza, Israel and Gaza terror groups reached an informal understanding to stop fighting Sunday evening (Aug. 21). The understanding, brokered by Egypt and foreign diplomats, is to be enforced by Hamas’ security personnel. Egypt told the groups that Israel would halt its airstrikes on Gaza “only if the Palestinian groups stopped shooting first,” Israel’s YNet reported.

“Israel will not respond to the attacks from Gaza with a large-scale operation,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet ministers concluded at a meeting on the security situation that ended very early Monday morning, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev said that Israel’s military actions in Gaza were twofold: “One, to prevent the launching of missiles and rockets on Israeli cities; and two, to target those responsible for attacks on Israelis,” the paper added.

Netanyahu instructed the military to take a measured response in Gaza, including pinpoint surgical attacks, so as not harm Gaza’s civilians who are not enemies of Israel.  Netanyahu also noted that the Palestinian Authority’s silence regarding Thursday’s terror attacks raises questions about the Palestinian leadership’s commitment to fighting terrorism.

After the ceasefire, some armed factions in Gaza, namely the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) that staged Thursday’s terror attacks that killed eight Israelis with gunfire, immediately issued a statement saying they would not accept the ceasefire and that Israel should take responsibility for its actions. Israel killed at least 15 Palestinian gunmen in retaliatory attacks over the weekend.

There were, however, initial reports that the PRC had accepted the ceasefire by midday Monday.

Some fifteen rockets were launched from Gaza at Israel overnight – despite the ceasefire.

Israel was targeted with over a hundred Grad and Qassam rockets and incessant shelling during the past few days - killing nine Israelis and injuring nearly 70 others. The Israel Air Force did not respond immediately to the weekend’s surge in violence in an effort to maintain calm while Netanyahu convened the security cabinet on Saturday to finalize a tactical plan to curb the violence.

Another defense measure Israel deploys is Iron Dome – a portable protective barrier that shoots down incoming rockets. So far, there are two Iron Dome units – and the government is looking to buy 13 more in order to protect the 1 million Israelis that live within reach of rocket-fire.

The PRC is a Gaza-based terror group with close operational ties to Hamas. It was formed by Fatah dissidents during the second intifada.  The PRC, which took responsibility for the first day of shootings and attacks, may have been responding to “internal pressures among Gaza-based Palestinian terrorist groups to strike at Israel,” a Washington Institute for Near East Policy analysis explained.

The other terror groups in Gaza involved in the series of attacks since Thursday are various splinter jihadi groups aligned with Al-Qaeda and other terror groups including Islamic Jihad, Fatah’s al-Aqsa Brigades, the al-Qaeda affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades and Hamas. The groups represent a wide spread of Islamic and nationalistic groups that target Israeli civilians with indiscriminate violence.

“According to a senior IDF [Israel Defense Forces] intelligence officer, all of the long-range rockets fired into Israel on Saturday were smuggled into Gaza from Libya,” Israel’s daily, Israel Hayom, reported.

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