Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday hailed Israel's 11 days of intense fighting with the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip as an "exceptional success," hours after a ceasefire to end the conflict went into effect.
The ceasefire that took hold at 2am Friday brought to an end thousands of rocket attacks on Israel, primarily against its southern population centers, and waves of IDF strikes on terror targets in Gaza.
It appeared to be holding Friday, offering Israelis and Gazans their first day of quiet in almost two weeks.
"We achieved our goals in the operation," Netanyahu said of the campaign primarily targeted at Hamas, the Islamist terror group that controls Gaza, and Islamic Jihad, the second largest armed group in the enclave.
He said that "the public doesn't know everything" about Israel's gains in the operation "and neither does Hamas."
Netanyahu said Israel's strikes had killed "more than 200 terrorists" in Gaza, including 25 senior commanders.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who was IDF chief of staff during Israel's last war in Gaza in 2014, added that Israel's operation followed plans that had "been prepared for years and months."
"The military action is over. Now is the time for political action," Gantz said.
Netanyahu also warned the Gaza factions against any further attacks on Israel.
"If Hamas thinks we will tolerate a drizzle of rockets, it is wrong," Netanyahu said.
The prime minister vowed to respond with "a new level of force" against any aggression anywhere in Israel. Gantz also warned Hamas it would pay a "heavy, very heavy" price if it breached the ceasefire.
Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry has put the death toll from Israel's strikes at 243, while 12 people were killed in Israel, where the Iron Dome missile defense system successfully intercepted the vast majority of the rockets fired at population centers.
The first test of the Egyptian-brokered truce Friday afternoon, just hours after the fighting officially ended.
Scattered clashes broke out between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, where previous confrontations were a main trigger for the 11 days of fighting.
Palestinians hurled stones and Israeli police fired stun grenades and tear gas shortly after Friday prayers.
Immediately after Friday prayers hundreds of Palestinians had held a celebratory demonstration at al-Aqsa in which they waved Palestinian flags and Hamas banners. It was unclear what set off the clashes.
First published: 14:59 , 05.21.21