With a cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militants holding after nearly three days of violence, Gaza’s sole power plant resumed operations Monday as Israel started reopening crossings into the territory.
Israel also lifted security restrictions on southern Israeli communities after the Egyptian-brokered truce took effect on Sunday. Fighting abated, and war-weary people in Gaza and Israel were left picking up the pieces after another round of violence — the worst since an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas last year.With a cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militants holding after nearly three days of violence, Gaza’s sole power plant resumed operations Monday as Israel started reopening crossings into the territory.
Since Friday, Israeli aircraft had pummeled targets in Gaza while the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group made scores of rocket attacks against Israel. Over three days of fighting, 44 Palestinians were killed, including 15 children and four women, and 311 were wounded, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. Islamic Jihad said 12 of those killed were militants. Israel said some of the dead were killed by rockets misfired from Gaza. No Israelis were killed.
The violence had threatened to spiral into another all-out war but was contained because Gaza’s ruling Hamas group stayed on the sidelines, possibly because it fears Israeli reprisals and undoing economic understandings with Israel, including Israeli work permits for thousands of Gaza residents that bolster Hamas’ control over the coastal strip.
Israel and Hamas have fought four wars since the group overran the territory in 2007. Hamas had a strong incentive to avoid more conflict, which has exacted a staggering toll on the impoverished territory’s 2.3 million Palestinian residents.
The eruption of violence in Gaza was a key test for Israel’s caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who lacks experience leading military operations. He unleashed the offensive less than three months before a general election in which he is campaigning to keep the job — and may have gained political ground with it. Israel began to reopen crossings into Gaza for humanitarian needs on Monday and said it would fully open them if calm is maintained. Fuel trucks were seen entering at the main cargo crossing headed for the power plant, which went offline Saturday after Israel closed the crossings into Gaza last week.
That added to tension at the height of summer heat in the territory, which is under a stifling Israeli-Egyptian blockade and suffers from a chronic power crisis that leaves residents with only a few hours of electricity a day.
Life for hundreds of thousands of Israelis was crippled during the violence. Israel’s sophisticated Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted many of the rockets launched at Israel and no significant injuries were reported.
Israel launched its operation with a strike Friday on a leader of the Islamic Jihad, saying there were “concrete threats” of an anti-tank missile attack against Israelis in response to the arrest last week of another senior Islamic Jihad member in the West Bank. That arrest came after months of Israeli raids in the West Bank to round up suspects following a spate of Palestinian attacks against Israel.
It killed another Islamic Jihad leader in a strike on Saturday.
Both sides boasted of their successes. Speaking to reporters in Tehran on Sunday, Islamic Jihad leader Ziad al-Nakhalah said the militant group remained strong, despite losing two of its leaders. “This is a victory for Islamic Jihad,” he said.
Despite that claim, the group undoubtedly sustained a blow during the fierce offensive. Beyond losing the two leaders, it reduced its arsenal by firing hundreds of rockets. Israel said some of the deaths in Gaza were caused by errant militant rocket fire, including in the Jebaliya refugee camp, where six Palestinians were killed Saturday. On Sunday, a projectile hit a home in the same area of Jebaliya, leaving two dead. Palestinians held Israel responsible for the attack, while Israel said it was studying whether the area was struck by misfired.