Israel denied Hamas’ claim that a ceasefire was in place, maintaining instead that the IDF’s powerful airstrikes deterred terror organizations in Gaza from persisting.
By: World Israel News Staff
Palestinian terror organizations ceased their fire on Israeli communities after their last barrage early Wednesday morning, while Israel says that its massive strikes against terror targets in Gaza restored quiet to the south and sent a powerful message of deterrence to Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.
Hamas, which rules Gaza, claimed Wednesday that it had agreed to a ceasefire with Israel to end the largest flare-up of violence since Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014.
Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, said Egyptian mediators intervened “after the resistance succeeded in warding off the aggression.” He said the terror groups in Gaza will commit to the ceasefire as long as Israel does.
Israeli officials denied reports of an official agreement with Hamas or other Palestinian terror organizations.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, a member of the security cabinet, said Wednesday that while Egypt served as a mediator, no ceasefire had been achieved.
An Israeli defense official said that Jewish state’s massive strikes against Hamas and Islamic Jihad inside Gaza caused the terror groups to cease their fire.
“The IDF launched a significant strike overnight in Gaza and we have acted responsibly, and since the morning the fire has stopped. Israel has delivered a message that if the fire resumes, the attacks on Hamas and the other groups will intensify,” a senior source in the Israeli defense establishment is quoted as saying by the Jerusalem Post.
“In recent months, Israel has acted with force and determination against any attempt to violate its sovereignty and/or harm the security of the residents of the south and it will continue to act with force against any attempt to violate the peace,” the official said.
Responding to the attacks, Israel Air Force (IAF) fighter jets and attack helicopters overnight struck some 25 military targets belonging to Hamas, the most extensive airstrikes in Gaza in four years.
The targets included storage structures of drones used for terror purposes, a rocket manufacturing workshop, advanced naval weaponry, military compounds, training facilities, and a munitions manufacturing site.
There were no reports of any Palestinian casualties in the strikes.
These strikes were in addition to strikes the IAF carried out against military targets belonging to Hamas during the day. A total of 65 terror targets were hit in the past 24 hours.
As part of Tuesday’s strikes, a Hamas terror tunnel was bombed near the Kerem Shalom Crossing. The terror tunnel started in the Gaza Strip, crossed into Egypt, and extended into Israeli territory some 900 meters. This is the second tunnel detected near the Kerem Shalom Crossing and the tenth tunnel destroyed since October.
‘Quiet will be met with quiet’
The IDF recognized that Hamas was actively stopping any further fire on Israel and redeployed its forces to stop other Palestinian factions from launching more projectiles, reported Israel’s Ynet news.
Israel’s Interior Minister Aryeh Deri told IDF Radio that he expects calm to be restored.
“If it will be quiet, we will respond with quiet. We’ve given Hamas a chance to prove that we can return to routine … If they release the reins there will be a very painful strike,” he said. “There is a good chance that the routine will be restored after the blow the army unleashed on them.”
In the meantime, IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis warned of tougher action and said it was up to Hamas to stop the situation from escalating.
“These strikes will continue to intensify as long as necessary if this fire continues,” he told reporters outside Israeli military headquarters.
AP contributed to this report.