Israel Believes Gaza Fighting Is Over for Now, Won't Attack if Rocket Fire Ends

Home Front Command gives all-clear ■ Hamas says Gaza cease-fire reached through Egyptian mediators

Smoke billowing in the background following an Israeli air strikeת Gaza City, May 29, 2018
THOMAS COEX/AFP

The Israeli army said Wednesday it believes fighting in Gaza has come to an end and said it will respect the calm if Hamas ends the rocket fire towards Israel. The military's Home Front Command said that starting at 6 P.M., residents of communities near the Gaza border can return to their regular routines. Hamas agreed to accept a unilateral cease-fire after talks with Egypt, despite the fact the Israel was not party to the talks.

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An Israeli official said that the "army dealt a serious blow tonight. The responsibility lies with Hamas." They added that "from the early morning fire has stopped, Israel passed on messages saying if attacks resume, the strikes against Hamas and its affiants will be even stronger."

Khalil al-Haya, a senior Hamas official, said Egyptian mediators intervened "after the resistance succeeded in warding off the aggression" - the largest flare-up of violence between the sides since the 2014 war.

In an early morning interview on Army Radio with Naftali Bennett, he said that no official agreement had been reached and that Israel will continue to act in its own best interests.

"There are the State of Israel's actions against Gaza and there are the decisions of the other side. But we haven't reached a single agreement - and not a single agreement with Hamas. We will continue to act in Israel's best interests," he said.

For his part, however, Energy Minster Yuval Steinitz told Kan Reshet Bet Radio on Wednesday morning that he believes understandings have been reached with Hamas, but Intelligence Affairs Minister Yisrael Katz told the same station that there are no such understandings and no cease-fire. "We are not conducting negotiations," he said, suggesting, in apparent reference to Hamas and Islamic Jihad that those who started the violence stop it.

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The Israeli military struck dozens of militant sites in Gaza overnight as rocket fire continued toward southern Israeli communities into early Wednesday morning. 

The border area has been tense in recent weeks as Palestinians held mass protests aimed at lifting an Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after Hamas seized power in 2007.

The attacks continued throughout Tuesday, triggering dozens of rocket sirens in southern Israel and wounding five Israelis, one of them suffering moderate injuries. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have claimed Tuesday's attacks, while the international community has called on the groups to cease firing projectiles immediately.