Gaza militants fired a barrage of rockets into Israel on Thursday, hours after a cease-fire was declared to end two days of intense fighting between Israel and the Islamic Jihad group, the heaviest escalation in months that killed at least 34 Palestinians, including three women and eight children, and paralyzed parts of Israel, AP reported.
Israel had hailed the Gaza operation as a victory, defending its policy of targeting militants in their homes despite civilian deaths and vowed to continue the tactic. Islamic Jihad said it had succeeded in getting Israel to agree to a cease-fire based on several demands, including a halt to Israeli targeted killings of the group’s leaders.
Islamic Jihad spokesman Musab al-Berim said the Egyptian-brokered deal went into effect at 5:30 a.m. An Israeli military spokesman tweeted that the Gaza operation “is over.” Some restrictions were lifted on residents of southern Israel and traffic returned to the streets of the Palestinian coastal territory, AP adds.
However, after hours of calm, a barrage of rockets blasted out of the territory, setting off air raid sirens in southern Israel and testing the fragile truce.
The fighting first erupted early on Tuesday after Israel killed a senior commander of the Iranian-backed militant group who was said to be behind a string of rocket attacks and who Israel said was believed to be planning a cross-border infiltration.
The rare targeted killing by Israel sparked the heaviest fighting with Gaza militants since May. Islamic Jihad fired some 450 rockets toward Israel, while Israel responded with scores of airstrikes.
Israel typically does not publicly acknowledge deals with militant groups, and on Thursday officials said the only unwritten agreement was that Israel would hold fire so long as Islamic Jihad did. Military spokesmen listed a series of accomplishments after the two-day spasm of violence, including the killing of some 25 militants in targeted strikes.