Our Israel office has prepared this update on the significant escalation along Israel's border with Gaza. After the intense 24-hour period of conflict in the Gaza region, an unofficial ceasefire seems to be holding. There have been no reported rocket firings or other significant attacks since Tuesday afternoon.
No agreement has been officially announced by Israel. Instead the Security Cabinet issued a statement that simply said that the “IDF would continue to act as necessary.” At the same time, Palestinian factions announced that Egypt had brokered a deal that would end the current round of conflict.
As of this morning, all restrictions in Israel’s south have been lifted. Schools have reopened, public transportation has been restored to regular schedules, and bans on public gatherings have been revoked.
The unofficial agreement came after Israel’s Security Cabinet met for six hours to debate ongoing steps. According to many reports, the IDF, the Shin Bet and the Mossad all favored the ceasefire, and the majority of cabinet members, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accepted their recommendations. Despite this, according to reports, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Education Minister Naftali Bennett as well as Ministers Ayelet Shaked and Ze’ev Elkin, were opposed to the deal. A short time ago, Defense Minister Lieberman announced that in protest of the ceasefire, he is resigning from the government, and pulling his party, Yisrael Beteinu, out of the coalition. This leaves Prime Minister Netanyahu with the slimmest of majorities: Just 61 out of 120 seats, a fact that could trigger new elections.
Politically, the ceasefire is potentially damaging to many of the cabinet ministers. In Israel’s southern cities (most of which are strongholds of Netanyahu’s Likud Party), large protests were held, calling on the government to initiate a more aggressive response to Hamas. The population has faced years of Hamas-led attacks and rockets, and many were hoping that the IDF would inflict permanent damage to the military infrastructure in Gaza, or even to remove Hamas from power.
The ceasefire came after 24 hours of fighting that saw some 460 rockets and mortars fired at Israel, 100 of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome Missile Defense System. In response, the IDF struck 150 targets in Gaza, significantly harming the military capacity of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. A number of photos of Hamas military targets that were struck can be seen here). Twenty of the Hamas rockets fell in Israeli cities, killing one man (a Palestinian worker from Hebron) and injuring 70. (See here for eyewitness testimony of Israeli residents in the region; and here for a series of short video clips released by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs).
Jewish Federations’ partners (including the Jewish Agency, JDC and World ORT) are all active on the ground dealing with the emergency situation and responding to urgent needs. (See here for the Jewish Agency’s response to the crisis). In the recent months of increased rocket fire, Federation partner ITC’s Resilience Centers have seen an increase of 544% in new clients seeking help. ITC is currently focusing on providing treatment and over the last 24 hours have provided therapy for over 200 people. JFNA’s Israel office continues to be in close contact with our partners and Federation staff with partnership regions that are impacted by the situation, as well as with government and emergency services operating in the area; and will continue to monitor the situation closely, and update as needed.