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November 15, 2019

Ceasefire takes hold in Gaza Strip: Eight members of same family killed in Israeli strike


November 15, 2019

GAZA CITY: A ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza took hold on Thursday after two days of fighting triggered by an Israeli strike on an Islamic Jihad commander, with 34 Palestinians killed in exchanges of fire.

Both Palestinian group Islamic Jihad and Israel’s military confirmed the ceasefire early on Thursday, which was brokered by Egyptian and UN officials, the usual mediators between Gaza and Israel.

Five rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza after the ceasefire came into effect and air defences intercepted two of them, the army said, but this did not appear likely to set off another severe round of fighting.

Normal life resumed quietly in Israeli regions near the Gaza border, while in Gaza, citizens also embraced the return of a relative calm. "We hope for peace, we don’t want war," said Mahmoud Jarda, an inhabitant of the enclave.

The agreement, which entered into force at 5:30 am (0330 GMT), came after the death toll from Israeli air strikes had risen to 34 since Tuesday. Islamic Jihad said several more of its members were among those killed.

Palestinian officials said eight members of the same family were killed in an Israeli strike overnight, including five children. Israel’s military said the man targeted and killed in the strike in Deir al Balah in the central Gaza Strip was an Islamic Jihad rocket unit commander.

"He was an Islamic Jihad commander and he, like many others, had the tactic of hiding ammunition and military infrastructure in their own residence," said Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus.

"Of course we try always to minimise the amount of non-combatants killed or injured." Relatives, neighbours and an Islamic Jihad spokesman disputed that he belonged to the militia, with some saying he had previously worked as a Palestinian Authority military police officer.

PA employees have not worked in Gaza since the Hamas takeover in 2007 but continued receiving salaries. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas forced many into retirement last year because of budget issues.

"This is a war crime," said neighbour Adan Abu Abdallah. "You are killing innocent children, sleeping at home." The escalation began early on Tuesday with Israel’s targeted killing of a top Islamic Jihad commander, Baha Abu al-Ata, whom it accused of being behind rocket fire and other attacks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "the goal of the operation was to carry out a targeted killing of an Islamic Jihad commander in the Gaza Strip. He was killed alongside dozens of terrorists.

"Our enemies got the message: We can reach anyone, even in their bed." The strike triggered almost immediate retaliatory rocket fire from Islamic Jihad at Israel, setting off air raid sirens and sending Israelis rushing to bomb shelters in the country’s south and central regions. Israel’s military said some 450 rockets had been fired at its territory since Tuesday morning and air defences had intercepted dozens of them in fireballs high in the sky.

No Israelis were killed, though one rocket narrowly missed speeding cars on a busy highway. Israeli medics said they had treated some 63 people as of Wednesday night, for mild injuries and "stress symptoms".

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