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Smoke rising from Rafah after an IAF strike. Photo: AFP
Smoke rising from Rafah after an IAF strike. Photo: AFP
 
 

Israel: No Gaza truce deal, calm will be met with calm

There are efforts on both sides to calm the situation, but even so Ya'alon has instructed the IDF to prepare for further escalation, and a limited amount of reserve soldiers have been called up.

Ron Ben-Yishai
Published: 03.13.14, 17:15 / Israel News

Israel has not reached a ceasefire agreement with the Islamic Jihad and will continue with the policy that "calm will be answered with calm," as it has been doing since the end of the 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense, a senior Israeli security official said Thursday.

 

Furthermore, Islamic Jihad did sustain casualties in the emphatic Israeli military response to its rocket fire from Gaza, despite the group's claims to the contrary.

 

During the day, the Egyptians launched an attempt to end hostilities between the two sides, and it appears the message has been passed on and understood by the Gaza terror organizations.

 

Since Thursday afternoon, it is rogue organizations such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Gaza-based Salafist groups who have been trying to rekindle the fire with a steady drip-drip of rockets, in contravention of the wishes of Hamas and Islamic Jihad who are now trying to calm the situation.

 

The two sets of rockets fired Thursday at the Ashkelon area were most probably the work of these groups, who are actively trying to sabotage de-escalation efforts.

 

Israel is following events closely, but has no intention of escalating the situation, and the IDF has noted with satisfaction the fact that Israelis living in the south were able to return to a semblance of normal life as the day progressed.

 

It is clear that Hamas knew of Islamic Jihad's intention to fire rockets at Israel, but it was surprised of the extent of it - almost
100 rockets
and mortar shells fired since Wednesday afternoon. Despite the fact that Hamas is the ruling party in the Strip, it was Islamic Jihad that negotiated with the Egyptians, and released a statement on the matter. This undermines Hamas' authority, but the Egyptians are finding it difficult to hold direct talks with Hamas so soon after declaring it a terror organization.

 

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Despite intentions to calm things down, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon has instructed the IDF to be ready for the possibility that the terror organizations in the Strip will resume fire. In addition, the IDF has decided after an evaluation of the situation to call up a limited amount of reserves for its air defense, in case there is a need to the deploy more Iron Dome batteries if the situation continues to escalate.

 

In any escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip there's an almost repeating pattern, especially when it's a limited round of hostilities in which neither side has an interest in further exacerbating the situation. The round of hostilities usually starts with an incident in which many rockets are launched simultaneously from the Strip, after which the IDF responds with force. And, if there are no casualties or extensive damage to civilian property on either side - the rocket fire significantly decreases and so does the IDF response.

 

Islamic Jihad had already announced Thursday afternoon that an agreement on a ceasefire had been reached with Israel, and the Egyptians confirmed it. The announcement was made shortly after IAF jets attacked a terror target in the south of the Strip, including a smuggling tunnel in Rafah and likely a rocket launcher. The strike was in response to rocket fire earlier Thursday at Ashdod, Ashkelon and Yavne.

 

An Islamic Jihad official, Khaled al-Batsh, claimed on his Facebook page that the understandings with Israel were reached following Egyptian efforts. According to his post, the understandings are based on those reached between Israel and the Palestinian factions after Operation Pillar of Defense, according to which Israel will be committed to a calm and will not break agreements. He thanked Egypt for its efforts.

 

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