Jerusalem, Aug. 26 – A week after carrying out a deadly, day-long terror attack and launching dozens of rockets, missiles and mortars at Israeli civilians, the Gaza-based terrorist group that initiated the attacks has again announced a ceasefire.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist faction that claimed responsibility for the wave of assaults in southern Israel near the border with Egypt, said Friday (Aug. 26) that it would institute a new ceasefire effective 1 p.m. local time. In addition to the wave of coordinated attacks that killed eight Israelis, terrorists in Gaza have fired rockets and mortars at Israel on a daily basis despite a ceasefire announced Sunday. Gaza is run by Hamas, which is funded, trained and armed by Iran.
Israel responded both to the Aug. 18 attacks and the ensuing daily rocket barrages that have hit various cities across southern Israel, through targeted airstrikes on terrorist leaders in Gaza. Two members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad have been killed. The Palestinian News Agency Ma’an confirmed that they belonged to the armed wing of the terrorist group.
Hamas government spokesman Taher Nunu said Friday, “The government has called on the Palestinian factions not to give an opportunity to the (Israeli) occupation government to escalate its aggression further." Various terrorist factions signed onto the ceasefire, according to another Hamas official; in the meantime, Hamas and the Egyptian government were still working Friday to get small splinter factions to join in the truce.
Islamic Jihad is a small group with roots in the Muslim Brotherhood. In a statement Thursday, the group threatened to extend the range of its rocket capabilities, sending projectiles even deeper into Israeli territory, Israel Radio reported.
"Our war with the occupation has begun and there is no possibility of discussing a truce," the group said in a statement.
An Egyptian government probe found that 12 terrorists from four different groups, among them at least three Egyptians, carried out the Aug. 18 attacks along a 7.5-mile (12-km stretch) along a road just north of the resort town of Eilat. Eight Israelis, among them six civilians, died from the attacks.
Since Friday, rockets from Gaza have hit several southern Israeli cities, killing two more Israelis in the southern capital of Beersheba. One rocket fired from Gaza hit the Egyptian town of Rafah, injuring an Egyptian woman there. On Thursday, (Aug. 25), a volley of rockets hit several southern cities and severely damaged the Erez border crossing point.
In Beersheba Thursday, the mood was somber and tense among the sparse numbers of residents who ventured outside. Most residents appeared to heed the government’s call to stay indoors, rendering the city almost empty during the last August vacation day before schools are set to open. Until now, Beersheba has been largely untouched by rocket fire because of its distance from Gaza.
Yotam Navon, a third-year student at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba, said the rocket attacks have caused panic and taken a significant mental toll on those living in the area. “It’s psychological warfare,” Navon, 29, told The Israel Project in an interview at the campus Thursday. “People are getting more injured from the psychological warfare than from the rockets.” Navon said he has come to see the rockets as a way of life and carries on despite the attacks.
Another Beersheba resident, Jessica Bernath, described the fear of hearing the rocket warning alarms and scrambling to find a place to take cover with her husband and 7-month-old baby, Hagar. “I didn’t imagine this would happen here in Beersheba,” Bernath said as she stood outside her home with her infant. “I just can’t understand how people in Sderot are living with this every day.” Sderot is an Israeli town next to Gaza that has, until recently, borne the brunt of Gaza rocket fire and terrorist attacks.
Bernath, the manager of an area bookstore, said she also worried about a rocket hitting while her child is in daycare. “Who will they take to the shelters first?” she said. Just steps from her home lies a padlocked bomb shelter, a testament to the city being unaccustomed to life under fire.
The latest attacks brought the number of rockets and mortars fired from Gaza at Israelis this year to 501, according to a count by The Israel Project.