Israel-Gaza violence appears to ease after overnight airstrikes
Palestinian rocket fire had spurred Israel-Gaza violence over the weekend, but Hamas – whose militants were not involved – seems eager to end the flare-up.
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A bout of weekend violence between Israel and militants in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip appears to be quieting down, bringing relief on both sides. Hamas, still awaiting the release of more than 500 prisoners under a recent prisoner swap deal, appears eager to avoid confrontation with Israel but must also balance pressure from more hard-line militants in the Gaza Strip.
Haaretz reported Sunday night that Israel planned to reopen the Kerem Shalom border crossing, through which goods enter Gaza from Israel, on Monday after keeping it closed Sunday because of the violence.
Israel launched airstrikes on Gaza overnight Sunday, killing two Palestinians who, according to the Israeli Defense Forces, were part of a cell that launched rockets into southern Israel earlier that night.
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The Israeli overnight airstrikes came hours after a cease-fire agreement was reportedly reached, only to be immediately broken by the launch of three Kassam rockets into southern Israel close to midnight, according to The Jerusalem Post. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak defended Israel's strikes, saying in an interview with Israeli Army Radio that the IDF "does not pay attention to empty calls for cease-fires from various terrorist groups," according to the Post. Mr. Barak added that the groups need to "actually stop their attacks" for Israel to follow suit.
The latest round of violence began with a rocket launched into Israel from Gaza last week. Israel retaliated with an airstrike on Saturday on the cell that it said was responsible for the rocket earlier in the week, The Christian Science Monitor reports. A tit-for-tat series of Palestinian rockets and Israeli airstrikes ensued. The overnight violence brings the death toll up to 12 Palestinians and one Israeli, according to the Associated Press.
While Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian factions claimed responsibility for the rockets, Israel holds Hamas responsible since it is the political authority in Gaza. In a cabinet meeting Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas “is responsible for keeping the quiet and preventing fire from Gaza, even if those who carry it out are Islamic Jihad men," according to The Jerusalem Post.