Israel, Gaza Cease Hostilities; Netanyahu: Campaign Not Over

After two days of violence that saw nearly 700 rockets fired from the Strip and claimed lives of four Israelis and 25 Palestinians, Israeli army lifts restrictions for south

An Israeli soldier stands at a gathering point in Israel Gaza Border, Monday, May 6, 2019
Ariel Schalit,AP

The Israeli army lifted restrictions for residents of the south on Monday in the wake of Palestinian reports on a cease-fire reached between Israel and Hamas, bringing to an end a round of aggression that saw nearly 700 rockets launched from the Strip and claimed the lives of four Israelis and 25 Palestinians.

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Following the army's statement, the Education Ministry announced schools would be open as usual in the cities and communities where not long ago sirens blared ceaselessly. Students in Gaza would also be headed back to class, according to reports on Palestinian media.

Reports said the cease-fire went into effect at 4:30 A.M., two hours after the last alarm was heard in Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, told reporters the campaign was not over.

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Four Israelis were killed and 194 were wounded by rockets launched from Gaza. The Palestinian Ministry of health reported 25 casualties in Gaza, including three women – two of them pregnant - and two infants. 177 Palestinians were wounded, among them are 42 children and 46 women.

Netanyahu said on Monday that the battle with Gaza is not over, and called for forebearance. 

"Over the past two days we have forcefully hit Hamas and Islamic Jihad," Netanyahu said in a statement. "We struck more than 350 targets, we targeted terrorists and terrorist leaders and we destroyed terror structures."
 
According to Netanyahu, "the battle is not over and requires patience and level-headedness. We are prepared to carry on." He offered his condolences to the families of the victims and said that the goal remains "to guarantee quiet and security for the residents of the south."

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said in an event in Jerusalem: "The terror army operating in Gaza, which hides between its citizens, witnessed the might of the IDF and security forces. We destroyed hundreds of terror targets, including headquarters, ammunition warehouses, infrastructure and civil buildings which were transformed into terrorist nests."

Hamas Spokesperson Sami Abu Zohri responded to Netanyahu's statements: "Netanyahu's declarations are ridiculous. The resistance factions have succeeded in deterring and humiliating his military. Our message is that this round is over, but the conflict will not be until we get our rights."

The cease-fire agreement was criticized by Israeli politicians, both from inside Netanyahu's government and from the opposition.

Leader of the opposition Benny Gantz said military deterrence with Hamas has been lost, and that the recent escalation in violence ended in "another surrender to the blackmail of Hamas and terrorist organizations." He expressed hopes that if quiet is maintained, it will be used for meaningful diplomatic initiatives.

Justice portfolio hopeful MK Bezalel Smotrich said that the round of violence in Gaza should have ended with "700 dead terrorists (one for every rocket) and with massive physical damage to Hamas - so that it would take them years to recover."

Palestinians check the damage in a destroyed building following Israeli airstrikes, targeting Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 5, 2019
AFP

On Sunday, U.S. President Donald Trump expressed full support for Israel's "defense of its citizens."

The round of violence began with an Israeli airstrike on a Hamas outpost on Friday, which killed two Palestinains, in response to sniper fire from the Strip that wounded two Israeli soldiers during the weekly protest along the border.