Gaza ceasefire holds after heavy Israel strikes, Hamas rocket fire

Geneva Stokes
July 15, 2018

Israeli warplanes targeted an under-construction building in al-Katiba neighborhood in Gaza on Saturday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

According to witnesses, the two teenagers who lost their lives were playing on the roof of a semi-abandoned building.

In an interview with the Ynet news portal, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz insisted that it was Israel's "strong response" to the rocket fire over the weekend that compelled Hamas to seek a ceasefire.

The Israeli military has lifted its restrictions along the Gaza border area, indicating it's accepted an Egypt-mediated cease-fire to end an intense, 24-hour round of fighting with Hamas militants.

"We are ready to operate simultaneously in different theaters", Conricus said, referring to the dual threats from Syria and Gaza.

Such rocket attacks have become a regular feature of the asymmetric conflict between Hamas and Israel, driving the IDF to develop the Iron Dome defence system to intercept and destroy incoming rockets.

Among the main targets was the "Hamas Battalion HQ in Beit Lahia, which includes urban warfare training facilities, (a) weapon storage warehouse, training compounds, command centres, offices and more", the Israeli army said in a statement.

Israel blamed Hamas for the escalation, pointing to months of protests and clashes along the border that its military argues the Islamist movement is seeking to use as cover for attacks.

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The IDF has sought to avoid an escalation of hostilities on the southern front despite the attacks, but according to the Haaretz daily, the political pressure to act has been building as the economic and psychological harm caused by the fires takes its toll.

Israeli troops shot dead a 15-year-old Palestinian who, the military claimed, had tried to climb over the fence into Israel. "Hamas is responsible for the events transpiring in Gaza and emanating from it and will bear the consequences for its actions", the IDF said.

On Friday, thousands of Palestinians gathered near the Gaza border for their near-weekly protest.

Earlier on Friday, an Israeli soldier was injured by a grenade thrown by a terrorists during unrest on the Gaza border.

The Israeli assault targeted dozens of Hamas military facilities and killed two Palestinian teenagers.

In a statement, the military said Hamas' activities "violate Israeli sovereignty, endanger Israeli civilians and sabotage Israel's humanitarian efforts that aim to help Gazan civilians".

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a harsh warning to Hamas earlier on Saturday before the ceasefire was announced after meeting with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and the IDF chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot.

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