A peace of sorts seems to have returned to the fractious, wartorn border that separates Israel and the territory of Gaza.
The Egyptians managed to negotiate a temporary truce yesterday as Palestinian militants sent multiple rocket barrages across the frontier – and the Israeli military targeted rocket launching sites run by the militant group Islamic Jihad.
Yet a truce is not a solution in a region where conflict is an all-too-frequent occurrence. Many feared this episode of violence would result in the fifth full-scale war in Gaza since militant group Hamas seized control of the local administration in 2007.
The fact that it has been avoided may rest with the leaders of Hamas who, it seems, decided not to make common cause with Islamic Jihad. But the situation is volatile and another strike resulting in the deaths of civilians may change the calculus on both sides.
We saw the exhaust from multiple rockets mark their position in the sky. It is a sight closely followed by the shriek and boom of Israel’s air defence system, named Iron Dome. The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) were pleased with its efficiency, saying 97% of Islamic Jihad’s rockets aimed at urban targets were destroyed.
Nonetheless, Israelis hurry for the shelters when they hear the alarms – something they have been doing plenty of over the last couple of days. At one checkpoint, we joined them inside a large concrete tube. Local residents told us they had been coming every 10 minutes or so.
In Israel, no casualties have been recorded. But on the other side of the frontier, health officials say 44 civilians have been killed and another 300 injured. Residents in a settlement called Jabaliya told us seven children between the ages of 5 and 17 had been killed in a large explosion.
The IDF contradicted this claim – releasing a video that they said proved the explosion was caused by an errant missile launched by the militants. But few Gazans accept this explanation, and one told us that the force of the blast was too large for a locally produced rocket.
The Israelis say they have achieved their objectives, killing two senior commanders from Islamic Jihad. The funeral of commander Khalid Mansour was attended by thousands of mourners, many pledging their revenge.
This bout of violence does not change anything on the ground in Gaza. Unemployment is mind-bogglingly high and there is little electricity or clean water. Its residents live under blockade and have been doing so since 2007.
The head of Islamic Jihad, Ziyad al Nakhala, held out little hope for a long-term ceasefire.
“If the occupiers do not abide by what was agreed upon, we will consider the agreement null and void and we will resume fighting without hesitation.”