Israel and Islamic Jihad to weigh ‘improved’ Egyptian offer for Gaza ceasefire – The Times of Israel

Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group are considering a new ceasefire proposal that Egypt put forward on Friday night as rocket fire from the Gaza Strip eased overnight Friday into Saturday.

Both sides confirmed Egypt’s new offer on Friday night, hours after Israel broke off talks on a ceasefire after the terror group launched another violent rocket attack on Israel on Friday morning. According to Haaretz, there was still no agreement on the new proposal and the Israelis were debating whether to even resume talks on a cessation of hostilities, which have been raging since Tuesday.

According to the report, Islamic Jihad is also unhappy with the Egyptian proposal, which Palestinian sources say calls for a ceasefire without further pledges from Israel to stop pursuing the terrorist group’s leaders. On Tuesday, Israel killed three senior members of the Islamic Jihad group, while subsequent attacks killed at least three other senior figures, including one on Friday afternoon.

Islamic Jihad has asked Israel to stop the killings, a proposal Jerusalem has flatly rejected.

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Meanwhile, Qatar-based broadcaster Al-Araby TV reported that the new proposal would call for a humanitarian ceasefire, beginning late Friday at midnight, and includes opening the Erez and Kerem Shalom border crossings to medical supplies and other supplies. It was unclear whether this agreement was completed.

Israeli broadcaster Channel 12 reported Friday night that under the new “improved” Egyptian proposal, Islamic Jihad no longer required Israel to permanently halt the killings or hand over the body of Khader Adnan, the hunger-striking Islamic Jihad prisoner whose death was in Israeli custody Haft was the deciding factor in the current round of conflict.

The network also claimed that Islamic Jihad has already attempted to end the fighting after suffering significant casualties in recent days, but the organization’s leadership abroad has so far refused to do so.

An Israeli man takes cover from rockets fired from the Gaza Strip during an air raid siren on Friday, May 12, 2023 in Sderot, Israel. (AP/Tsafrir Abayov)

A senior political source told Channel 13 on Friday night that Israel is ready to cease fire on condition that “calm is answered with calm” and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will conduct a security assessment on the matter on Saturday.

“Israel is ready to cease fire, but will not accept fire directed at it. There is a dialogue with Egypt, but we have stopped the ceasefire talks. “We will discuss them with the prime minister at the assessment of the situation,” the source said, adding that the conflict “could end in a few hours but could last for days.”

Israel generally avoids confirming ceasefire agreements with terrorist groups, but several previous rounds of fighting between the IDF and Gaza have been ended through international mediation and indirect talks.

Hamas officials told local media early Friday that Egypt had stepped up its efforts to end the fighting through “intensive contacts” with both Hamas and Islamic Jihad, whose officials had given conflicting messages about the talks.

According to multiple reports in Hebrew-language media, Israel launched airstrikes in the Gaza Strip on Friday night, targeting Islamic Jihad command centers in southern Gaza. More than a dozen rocket launchers were also reportedly hit in the attacks. In the early hours of Saturday, Palestinian media reported that Israeli fighter jets had struck a house in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City that belonged to the father of an Islamic Jihad leader who was assassinated by Israel in 2019.

This attack was not confirmed by Israel.

Smoke billows over buildings in Rafah, southern Gaza, following an Israeli attack on May 12, 2023. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Also on Friday night, Hebrew media reports said an anti-tank missile had been fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip, causing a fire in an uninhabited area near the Palestinian enclave. No injuries were reported.

Just before noon on Friday, Israel renewed its attacks on the coastal enclave after Islamic Jihad terrorists fired large mortar shells at communities near the Gaza Strip and also fired long-range missiles towards Jerusalem for the first time in this round of fighting.

The rocket attacks shattered several hours of calm that had fueled hopes of an agreement to end hostilities on Thursday night, while Egypt, as well as Qatar and the United Nations, tried to broker indirect talks.

This week’s clash began after Israel launched Operation Shield and Arrow early Tuesday with simultaneous airstrikes that killed three Islamic Jihad commanders and some of their wives and children as they slept in their homes. Israel said it was retaliating for rocket fire fired by Islamic Jihad last week after Adnan died as a result of a hunger strike while he was in Israeli custody.

Talks also broke down on Thursday after Israel assassinated the commander of Islamic Jihad’s missile branch and his deputy. This came before a rocket slammed into a house in Rehovot, killing an Israeli woman – the country’s first fatality in the current conflict. She was named as Inga Avramyan, 80, on Friday. Her husband was also with her and was injured in the attack.

At least 33 people have been killed and at least 111 others injured in Gaza since the start of the Israeli offensive, according to the Hamas-led Health Ministry in Gaza.

Military officials said Israel had killed at least 18 terrorists but admitted the IDF was responsible for the deaths of 10 civilians during the initial attacks, which destroyed apartment buildings where families were sleeping. Officials believe some civilians in Gaza were killed by misfiring Palestinian rockets.

To illustrate, on May 11, 2023, rockets were fired from Gaza City at Israel amid fighting between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist group Islamic Jihad. (Mahmoud Hams/AFP)

Gaza militants, who only began firing rockets in response to the bombing Wednesday afternoon, fired at least 937 projectiles during the conflict through Friday afternoon.

According to the IDF, air defense systems — Iron Dome and the medium-range missile David’s Sling — intercepted 296 of the missiles, a 91% intercept rate for projectiles headed for populated areas. Several rockets have hit cities, killing one, injuring several others and causing extensive damage.

The rest, according to the IDF, landed in open ground without causing any damage. Most rockets targeted cities in southern Israel, but some reached as far north as Tel Aviv.

The military also said it carried out attacks against 254 Islamic Jihad targets during the campaign.

The United States, which joined with the European Union in blacklisting Islamic Jihad and Hamas as terrorist groups, urged on Friday to “take steps to ensure violence is reduced.”

US Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, in a phone call with Secretary of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer, stressed “the urgency of a ceasefire agreement to prevent further civilian casualties,” said Matthew Miller, spokesman for the US State Department.

Morocco, which normalized ties with Israel in 2020, said it “strongly condemns recent Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, which have caused scores of casualties among innocent civilians,” a State Department source said.

In a televised address, the leader of Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah, said the terror group was in contact with the Palestinian factions and was ready “within certain limits to provide any assistance possible”.