A last minute ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, which came into effect Tuesday evening, has held throughout the night and into Wednesday morning as more than 4,500 rockets have been fired into Israel over the last seven weeks.
The open-ended ceasefire began at 7 pm Tuesday night, with Hamas unleashing a final assault on southern Israel at least 15 minutes after ceasefire began. In one of the attacks, two Israelis were killed by mortar fire.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted the deal without seeking a vote from his Security Cabinet. Legally, the prime minister has no obligation to seek approval from Security Cabinet ministers.
Netanyahu informed the ministers of the Security Cabinet that he would be accepting a truce. Several of the ministers expressed their disapproval of the prime ministers decision, including ministers Avigdor Liberman, Naftali Bennett, Gilad Erdan and Yitzhak Aharonovitch, who said they might have voted against the deal had they been given the opportunity to do so.
Hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets in Gaza celebrating what they called a Hamas “victory” over Israel. Hamas supporters fired rifles in the air and could be seen making the “V” sign for peace.
In a news conference at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said, “We are here today to declare the victory of the resistance, the victory of Gaza, with the help of God, and the steadfastness of our people and the noble resistance.”
“The value of this campaign is not in the opening of this crossing or that crossing, but in paving the way for the next stage – liberating Jerusalem,” Zuhri added.
A second Hamas official, Izzat al-Risheq, said Israel “could not achieve any military success in 51 days of fighting aside from its war crimes on defenseless citizens, the majority of whom are women, elderly and children.”
Al-Risheq blamed the “occupation for starting the aggression,” even though Hamas was responsible for consistent rocket fire on Israel that forced the Jewish state into a ground operation.
While residents from the south have been informed they can return home, many are reluctant to do so saying they have little faith in a lasting truce or the ability of the government to act.
Merav Cohen, a resident of the kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, told Ynet, “We don’t believe the government, maybe in Netanyahu’s house in Caesarea there is peace, but here there is no peace.”
“My kids will not go back to school, this ceasefire is nothing and I will not risk my children for it. As long as Hamas is armed I will not return home,” she said.
IDF Spokesman Brigadier General Motti Almoz assured residents of the Gaza Belt that soldiers will remain stationed along the border regardless until the army can be certain Hamas and other terror groups will not attack Israel again.
“We are present around the Gaza Belt all of the time and we will not leave it until we see the situation stabilizing,” he said. “We are doing this with a lot of love and there is no argument or disagreement with the residents of the Gaza Belt. The residents have experience something. The burden of proof is on us, and we understand this. We will not budge from there until trust is restored.”
International leaders praised the latest ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the truce but warned that “any peace effort that does not tackle the root causes of the crisis will do little more than set the stage for the next cycle of violence.”
In a statement released by his office, the secretary-general said that Gaza “must be brought back under one legitimate Palestinian government,” called for the end of the blockade on Gaza and said that Israel’s security concerns must be met.
“After 50 days of profound human suffering and devastating physical destruction, any violations of the cease-fire would be utterly irresponsible,” the statement added.
Quartet envoy to the Middle East Tony Blair praised the efforts of negotiators and said, “It is only tragic that such a ceasefire has come too late to save the lives of so many innocent people.”
Hours after the ceasefire began, US Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement in which he said the US “strongly supports” the truce but added that “we hope very much that this ceasefire will prove to be durable and sustainable, that it will put an end to rocket and mortar attacks, and that it will help bring about an enduring end to the conflict in Gaza.”
In all previous ceasefire agreements, Hamas has broken each of them by firing rockets upon Israel.
According to IDF figures, over 182 rockets and mortars were fired into Israel on Tuesday with 143 of them falling in open areas. Five of the rockets hit residential areas and 27 were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
Since the collapse of ceasefire negotiations last week in Cairo, terrorists in Gaza have fired more than 1,045 rockets and mortars into Israel. 141 of them were intercepted.
In total, since the start of Operation Protective Edge on July 8, 4,564 rockets and mortars have been shot into Israel. Iron Dome intercepted over 735 of the rockets, with 3,641 exploding in open areas in Israel. 224 of the rockets hit residential areas.
In retaliation for the rocket attacks, the IDF struck 5,263 terror targets across the Gaza Strip.