Ceasefire takes effect after 3 days of fighting between Israel and Gaza militants
JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:
Things are mostly calm after three days of intense fighting between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip. A cease-fire took effect last night. Israel says that the militant group Islamic Jihad fired some 1,100 rockets total. There were no deaths in Israel thanks to missile defense systems and shelters there. But in Gaza, health officials say at least 44 people, including several children, died. They blamed Israeli airstrikes. But Israel says some of the deaths were caused by militant rockets that fell short. NPR's Fatma Tanis joins us from Jerusalem now to look at how this played out in the aftermath. Hi, Fatma.
FATMA TANIS, BYLINE: Hi, Juana.
SUMMERS: So how did this cease-fire come about?
TANIS: You know, pretty much how other cease-fires have come about recently. It's almost like a playbook at this point. Egypt mediated between the militants and Israel as it borders both Gaza and Israel and can speak to both sides. The talks went through, and they reached an agreement on Sunday. There were some rockets fired up right up to when the truce went into place, and even a few were fired after it did. But the terms of the truce weren't made public. And so now there is some concern that the fighting could start again. Islamic Jihad wants two prisoners who were recently arrested back, but Israel says it didn't agree to that and warned it would respond harshly to any new rocket fire from Gaza.
SUMMERS: Let's look now at what the two sides are saying about this. How is this being viewed by each?
TANIS: So keep in mind that in Gaza, they haven't been able to rebuild most of the damage from last year's war between Hamas and Israel, which went on for 11 days and led to some 260 people being killed. And the trauma from that is ongoing, especially with children. But the scene in Gaza today is people surveying what's happened and trying to focus on fixing the damage. You mentioned the 1,100 rockets from Gaza. Israel says 200 of those actually fell short into Gaza and caused some of the civilian casualties there. Meanwhile, Islamic Jihad is focused on trying to get their prisoners out. They need some sort of a win here.
I spoke with someone in Gaza who said that some people there are questioning whether Islamic Jihad should have gotten into this fight with Israel that led to a lot of damage. Notably, though, Hamas stayed out of it. And that's one thing that's different about this conflict and really a key to why it didn't spiral. Now, in Israel, this is being painted as a military success. Israeli officials are stressing that they achieved a lot here. You know, they say that they killed two top commanders of Islamic Jihad militants and many others. They took out a tunnel, they say, and that they set the group back severely.
SUMMERS: Now, there are politics on both sides of this conflict, both Palestinian and Israeli, and those were highlighted this weekend. What can you tell us about that?
TANIS: So in Gaza, we're talking about two groups. There's Hamas, which controls Gaza, and then the much smaller Islamic Jihad. And they compete with each other for followers. Now, recently, Hamas has been trying to keep things calm. They seem to want to continue rebuilding Gaza from last year's war by getting Israel to ease restrictions on imports to Gaza and other economic relief. So they've stayed completely out of this.
Meanwhile, in Israel, caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid is in charge, and he's faced some criticism that he's not as experienced on security issues. And an election is coming up in November, and his opposition is going to be former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who's known for being a hawk. And so some in Israel say that this has helped Lapid establish himself. There were pictures of him briefing Netanyahu on the operation, and Netanyahu showed his support to how Israel handled it.
SUMMERS: That is NPR's Fatma Tanis in Jerusalem. Thank you.
TANIS: Thank you.
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