Skies quiet over Gaza as truce deal takes hold
The skies over Gaza were quiet early on Thursday as an Egyptian-brokered truce between Israel and Hamas took hold after a spurt of violence left four Palestinians dead and two Thai workers wounded in Israel.
“There has been no rocket fire at Israel nor any Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip since Wednesday night,” a spokeswoman for the Israeli military told reporters.
Israeli schools near the border were operating as normal, public radio said, after being closed for the day due to heavy rocket fire which began on Tuesday night and sparked a brief but deadly confrontation between militants and the Israeli army.
In Gaza, Palestinians officials also confirmed a quiet night without any air strikes.
Sources on both sides told reporters that the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreement had gone into effect at 6am Hong Kong time.
The agreement put an end to 24 hours of bloodshed, which saw a series of Israeli air strikes that killed four Palestinian militants while armed groups fired than 70 rockets and mortars over the border seriously wounding two Thai workers.
Among those firing on Israel was the armed wing of Gaza’s ruling Islamist Hamas movement – the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades – which said three of the dead were its own militants.
A fourth man was from the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), which also claimed to have fired rockets at Israel.
The latest surge in violence began on Tuesday evening, shortly after a top-level state visit to Gaza by the Qatari emir to inaugurate a multi-million dollar project to rebuild the impoverished Palestinian enclave.
During the evening, militants fired six rockets at Israel and in response Israeli aircraft killed two Hamas militants in raids on northern Gaza, prompting a further wave of rocket fire.
An early-morning Israeli raid near southern city of Rafah on Wednesday killed a third militant – from the PRC – and another Hamas militant who was hurt in Tuesday night’s strikes died of his injuries later, medics said.
“Hamas will receive its punishment for what has happened here,” Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said on Wednesday, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also warned that any continuation of rocket fire would prompt a “much more extensive” Israeli response.
Gaza’s Hamas government issued a statement “condemning the Zionist aggression against the Gaza Strip,” and warning of its consequences.