Israel, Gaza terror groups agree to ceasefire after rockets, IDF response

Two sides settle on truce, Palestinian sources say, after daylong flare-up sparked by death of Islamic Jihad member in Israeli prison during hunger strike

An explosion in Gaza, May 2, 2023. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
An explosion in Gaza, May 2, 2023. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

Israel and Gaza terror groups reportedly agreed to a ceasefire early Wednesday morning, after a daylong flare-up in violence sparked by the death of a prominent Palestinian Islamic Jihad member while on a hunger strike in an Israeli prison.

The two sides agreed to a truce that went into effect before dawn, according to the Al Jazeera and Reuters news outlets, citing Palestinian sources.

The agreement was mediated by officials from Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations, Reuters reported.

A rocket warning siren went off near the southern Israeli community of Nir Am shortly after the start of the reported ceasefire. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage, or a confirmation of a rocket launch.

The Israel Defense Forces said that after a situational assessment, it had decided that those living in communities bordering the Strip could return to their usual routines.

The Eshkol Regional Council, which borders Gaza, announced that schools would be open as usual.

The ceasefire was announced around 24 hours after the Israel Prisons Service announced the death of Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s Khader Adnan after an 86-day hunger strike.

Adnan had been arrested on terror charges and was in detention while awaiting trial.

Shortly after Adnan’s death was announced, four rockets were fired from Gaza, causing no injuries. In response, IDF tanks struck a Hamas observation post near the border.

On Tuesday afternoon and evening, Gaza terrorists fired dozens more rockets and mortar shells into Israel. Most were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, landed in open areas, or fell short and landed inside Gaza. Five hit urban areas in southern Israel, though, according to police.

Security forces inspect a damaged car in the southern city of Sderot following rocket fire from Gaza on May 2, 2023. (Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP)

One of the rockets hit a construction site in the city of Sderot, seriously wounding a 25-year-old foreign national and lightly wounding two others, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.

The three, suffering from shrapnel wounds, were taken to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon. The hospital said in a later statement that the seriously wounded man’s condition had improved, and he was listed in moderate condition.

A security camera recorded a rocket hitting a residential area near Ashkelon.

The so-called “Joint Operations Room” of various Palestinian terror factions in the Gaza Strip took responsibility for the rocket attacks.

In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, the collective, which includes both Hamas and Islamic Jihad, said the attacks came as a response to Adnan’s death.

The terror groups fired at least 37 rockets at Israel throughout the day.

Besides the tank fire early in the morning, the IDF held off from immediately responding to the rocket barrages.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government came under intense pressure to retaliate, though, with much of the push coming from within Netanyahu’s own coalition.

The right-wing bloc’s approval rates have declined since it returned to power four months ago, promising to restore security, only to be met with a sustained series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks and security tensions on other fronts. The coalition’s push to overhaul the judicial system has also been broadly unpopular, according to polls, and has prompted massive, sustained protests around the country.

Fire and smoke rise following an Israeli airstrike in the northern Gaza Strip, May 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

On Tuesday night, the Israeli Air Force began carrying out airstrikes against Hamas terror targets in response to the rockets.

In a statement, the IDF said air force jets targeted a number of sites belonging to the Hamas terror group.

The targets included a Hamas training camp; another base that housed a weapons production site, a concrete production plant, and a training site; a site for the group’s naval commandos; and a tunnel used by Hamas in southern Gaza.

“The strike deals a serious blow to Hamas’s ability to fortify and arm itself,” the IDF said.

Palestinian media outlets reported that explosions were heard across northern and central Gaza.

One man was badly injured in an airstrike on a site belonging to Hamas, Palestinian media reported. There was no immediate confirmation by Hamas authorities.

Hours later, the IDF announced another round of airstrikes targeting similar Hamas targets in Gaza.

Sirens continued to go off in Israeli communities near the Gaza border into the predawn hours of Wednesday, until shortly before the ceasefire was announced.

The IDF said it was investigating the alarms. There were no confirmed rocket strikes, or reports of injuries or damage.

Khader Adnan, an Islamic Jihad spokesman, during a television interview in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed, File)

Adnan was found unresponsive in his cell in Nitzan Prison in the central city of Ramle before dawn on Tuesday. He was brought to Shamir Medical Center outside Tel Aviv and underwent resuscitation efforts, but was declared dead at the hospital, the Israel Prisons Service said.

Adnan’s latest detention was his 10th stint in the Israeli prison system. Israeli officials said he had been detained 13 times overall.

Adnan had long been accused of being a spokesperson for Islamic Jihad, and had been arrested several times in recent years and served several prison sentences in connection with his activities for the group.

After his arrest on February 5, Adnan was indicted on terror charges and was being held until the end of his trial. A hearing had been scheduled for May 10.

He had previously gone on hunger strikes four times to protest his detentions, including over an arrest in 2018. In that case, he was convicted of having been an active member of Islamic Jihad, a banned Iran-backed terror group, after he pleaded guilty in a plea bargain.

Israel and Gaza terror groups have repeatedly waged brief, back-and-forth battles across the border in recent years, without affecting significant changes on the ground. The exchanges vary in duration and intensity, and the most recent took place last month.

The two sides have also fought a series of more severe conflicts that last longer, cause more destruction and leave more casualties. The most recent was 2021’s Operation Guardian of the Walls.

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