A potential calm was reached in Gaza after the Israeli military struck dozens of militant sites in Gaza overnight as rocket fire continued toward southern Israeli communities into early Wednesday morning. Egypt negotiated a cease-fire without Israel, but Israeli defense officials said the army will respect the deal if the calm is kept.
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.
Live updates (click here for Tuesday's updates):
- Explained: Why Israel agreed to Hamas' request to end fighting
- 'Unacceptable to fire at civilian communities': UN, EU condemn attacks on Israel from Gaza
10:24 P.M.: UN envoy calls flare-up 'most serious escalation since 2014 conflict'
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov told the UN Security Council that Tuesday's events were the most serious escalation since the 2014 conflict between Israel and Gaza, describing it as a warning on how close to the brink of war we are every day. (Noa Landau)
10:16 P.M. Israel's UN ambassador: International community was fooled by terrorists disguised as civilians
Speaking ahead of the UN Security Council's emergency meeting on the Gaza flare-up, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said: "If the children of Israel do not sleep peacefully, in Gaza they will feel the powerful arm of the IDF. For a long time the international community was deceived when the demonstrators from the Gaza Strip were terrorists disguised as civilians – terrorists whose sole goal was one thing, to disturb Israel's security." (Noa Landau)
7:14 P.M. UN Security Council to convene in coming hours, Israeli ambassador to speak
The UN Security Council is set to convene at 3 P.M. Eastern Standard Time (10:00 P.M. in Israel) regarding the flare-up. Israel's ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, is expected to speak before the council at 4 P.M. Danon plans to hold a press conference at 2:30 P.M., ahead of the meeting. (Noa Landau)
6:25 P.M. Netanyahu: Gaza groups will pay heavy price if they keep testing us
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that organizations in Gaza will pay a heavy price if they continue to attack Israel. "When they test us, they pay immediately," Netanyahu said at an event commemorating the 1948 Altalena affair. "And if they continue to test us, they will pay much more." Netanyahu referred to the IDF's airstrikes in Gaza on Tuesday as "the worst blow we inflicted on them in years. Those responsible for the escalation, inspired by Iran, are the Hamas regime, the Islamic Jihad and other terror organizations. I am not specifying our plans because I do not want the enemy to know what is in store for him." (Noa Landau)
5:25 P.M. Home Front Command says situation back to normal
The military's Home Front Command has said that beginning at 6:00 P.M., residents of the Gaza border communities can return to their regular routines.
2:42 P.M.: With Eye on Bigger Threats, Israel Quickly Agrees to Hamas' Request for Cease-fire | Analysis
As of Wednesday morning, a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza has been in effect. The rocket and mortar fire from Gaza that trickled overnight has stopped and, accordingly, so have Israeli aerial attacks on Gaza.
This is not an official cease-fire. Senior political and military officials maintain that Israel has not signed anything with Hamas. The group's leadership in Gaza sent Israel a message though Egypt that they are willing to end attacks on Israel and rein in their smaller groups in Gaza. Israel, in response, said that clam would be met with calm. In the meantime, the indirect agreement is holding - because, among others, Israel made sure not to let things spin out of control. (Amos Harel) Read full article here
1:37 P.M.: Germany condemns Gaza rocket fire towards Israel
In a Facebook post, Germany condemned the rocket attacks from Gaza, saying "there is no justification for the massive mortar attack towards Israel from Gaza under any circumstances." (Noa Landau)
11:29 A.M. Security cabinet to convene tonight at 6 P.M. at the military headquarters in Tel Aviv
Ministers in the government said Wednesday that they have received only "light" updates about the situation in Gaza. The meeting in the meeting will be about an hour.
Israeli ministers spoke to Israeli media about the calm and made seemingly conflicting statements. "There is no cease-fire," Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said, "there is however a clear Israeli policy regarding violence towards Israeli citizens and territory." Education Minister Naftali Bennett added that "there were no understandings, only action against Gaza." Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said there were understandings, "but more than that there is reality on the ground – understandings are reached on the basis of what happens." (Noa Landau)
10:15 A.M. Israeli official on cease-fire: If attacks from Gaza resume, strikes on Hamas 'will be even stronger'
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, and Israel has passed on messages according to which if attacks resume, the strikes against Hamas and its affiliates will be even stronger." (Noa Landau)
9:40 A.M. Gaza fighting is over for now, Israeli defense officials believe
Israel's defense establishment's assessment Wednesday morning is that the current round of violence in Gaza has come to an end. Despite the fact that understandings regarding a ceasefire were reached unilaterally, with Hamas talking directly with Egyptian mediators, the Israel Defense Forces will respect the calm if Hamas bring about an end to fire on Israel.
The current assessment is that Hamas was dragged into yesterday's events despite not aiming for a conflict. Hamas was concentrating its efforts on a flotilla to break the blockade on Gaza but failed to stop the Islamic Jihad from taking revenge for the death of its operatives by Israel. The Islamic Jihad fire targeting civilians even caught Hamas by surprise, as though Hamas allowed the group to take revenge, it did not believe the response would be so severe. (Yaniv Kubovich)
8:38 A.M.: Gaza's Hamas rulers say cease-fire reached with Israel
Gaza's Hamas rulers say they have agreed to a cease-fire with Israel to end the largest flare-up of violence between the sides since a 2014 war.
Khalil al-Haya, a senior Hamas official, says Wednesday that Egyptian mediators intervened "after the resistance succeeded in warding off the aggression."
Education Minister Naftali Bennett told Israel's Army Radio no agreement has been reached yet.
8:00 A.M. UN Security Council to likely to meet on Gaza later today
The United States has called for an emergency session of the UN Security Council over the firing of rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip. The U.S. expects the session to take place on Wednesday afternoon. (Haaretz) Read full story
7:22 A.M.: Solider hit by shrapnel in moderate condition (Haaretz)
Three Israeli soldiers were wounded by mortar fragments on Tuesday, the Israel Defense Forecs said. One suffered moderate wounds and two were lightly injured. As of Wednesday morning, one was still in the hospital with moderate wounds.
7:09 A.M.: Eshkol regional council: Direct hit on home in the Eshkol region, no casualties
At least two rockets fired from Gaza exploded in the Eshkol region overnight, the regional council spokesperson said. One hit a house in the area directly. There were no casualties. (Almog Ben Zikri)
1:09 A.M. IDF confirms: 25 Hamas targets in Gaza Strip
The Israeli army has confirmed carrying out strikes on at least 25 Hamas targets in Gaza Strip. Earlier, Israel struck positions in Gaza, Palestinian reports said, after rocket explodes in southern Israeli town. (Yaniv Kubovich)
Clear rules of the game have emerged in Gaza over the past two months – rules from which Israel and Hamas rarely deviated. Every Friday, and sometimes in midweek too, Hamas sent masses to protest along the border fence with Israel. Despite over 100 Palestinians being killed and thousands more being wounded by Israeli gunfire, Hamas preferred to confine the clash to the border fence.
Not only did the organization not fire rockets into Israel; it also forbade the other Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip from committing revenge attacks. Hamas’ calculation was clear: It did not want to damage the narrative it was selling of a popular Palestinian struggle confronting Israeli snipers – even though, under cover of the protests, explosives were planted on the fence and members of Hamas’ military wing led mass attempts to breach the border. (Amos Harel)
It’s not a war yet in Gaza. Despite the higher-than-usual number of mortar rounds fired by Islamic Jihad and the backing it has received from Hamas, Islamic Jihad prefers to define the mortar firing as revenge for the killing of three of its operatives by the Israeli military. In other words, as a localized event, rather than the opening of a new front and the disruption of the hard-won 2014 agreement between Hamas, Egypt and Israel at the end of Operation Protective Edge. (Zvi Bar'el)