JERUSALEM/GAZA – A ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad brought some calm on Thursday morning following a night of intense bombing by the Israeli air force against the Islamist militant organization in response to an incessant barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip.
“Egypt and the UN worked hard to prevent the most dangerous escalation in and around Gaza from leading to war. The coming hours and days will be critical,” United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov announced on Twitter.
“All must show maximum restraint and do their part to prevent bloodshed. The Middle East does not need more wars,” Mladenov said.
The launch of rockets from Gaza did not stop early Thursday despite reports that a truce would come into effect at midnight.
Anti-aircraft sirens continued to sound until 7:00 am, when the last alert was activated in the neighborhoods bordering the Gaza Strip, and relative calm returned.
The Gaza health ministry said early Thursday that two more Palestinians had died in southern Gaza and six in the central part, taking the total number of casualties since an escalation in violence on Tuesday to 34, most of them from the militia.
Among the civilian victims are six minors, according to ministry spokesperson Ashraf al Qaedra.
According to security forces in Gaza, the shelling on Thursday morning also hit sites of other small Palestinian militias.
The flare-up in violence early Tuesday followed Israeli’s tactical strike against Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu Al Ata, which killed him and his wife.
Militants reacted with a barrage of missiles, over 400, fired into Israel, which responded with a series of bombings targeting their positions in the Gaza Strip.