Prime minister denies promises were made to Islamic Jihad for ceasefire

At opening of cabinet meeting, Netanyahu pushes back against terror group’s claim that last week’s truce was based on series of conditions

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opens the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office on November 17, 2019. (GALI TIBBON / POOL / AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opens the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office on November 17, 2019. (GALI TIBBON / POOL / AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday denied Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s claims that Israel had made pledges to the terror group in exchange for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

“I would like to reiterate: Israel has not promised anything. Our security policy has not changed at all, not one iota. We maintain complete freedom of action and we will hurt whoever tries to hurt us,” Netanyahu said at the opening of the cabinet meeting.

A message sent to the media from Netanyahu’s office on Thursday morning quoted an unnamed Israeli official, apparently the prime minister, making a similar statement, after Islamic Jihad and Egypt said the sides had agreed to end two days of fighting.

Islamic Jihad asserted the truce was based on three conditions — an end to targeted killings, a halt in shootings of protesters at weekly demonstrations along the Israeli frontier, and an easing of the 12-year Israeli security blockade on Gaza.

Officials in the terror group have been quoted by Arabic media claiming Israel had agreed to all its conditions for a ceasefire.

A senior Israeli official told Ynet on Friday it was Islamic Jihad that had requested a ceasefire, and Israel had made no promises. “We didn’t promise anyone that we would avoid assassinations,” he said. “Whoever tries to attack or does attack, will get hit.”

A man looks at the damage to a house in Sderot, Israel, after it was hit by a rocket fired from Gaza Strip, November 12, 2019. (Tsafrir Abayov/AP)

The official acknowledged that the group had “set terms” to uphold the peace “but it’s meaningless.”

Netanyahu also blamed the Hamas terror group for firing a pair of rockets at Beersheba over the weekend and threatened that “those who hurt us we will be hurt.”

A spokesperson for Hamas said Saturday that Israel “will not be allowed to choose the time and place of [military] campaigns.”

During this week’s fighting, Israel traded blows with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organization while the Gaza-ruling Hamas sat on the sidelines until the early hours of Saturday, when it fired two rockets at the southern city of Beersheba.

Israel is said to believe that attack was carried out by Hamas operatives who were acting independently, without the authorization of the terror organization’s leaders. The IDF responded with strikes on Hamas terror targets in the enclave.

An Israeli soldier walks past military vehicles in a gathering point near the Israel-Gaza Border, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. Israel and the militant Islamic Jihad group in Gaza reached a cease-fire on Thursday to end the heaviest Gaza fighting in months. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

From predawn Tuesday to Thursday morning, Israel and Islamic Jihad fought a 48-hour battle during which over 450 rockets and mortar shells were fired at Israel from Gaza. In response to the attacks, the Israeli military conducted dozens of strikes on Islamic Jihad bases and weapons facilities, as well as rocket-launching teams throughout the Strip.

Palestinian sources said 34 Gazans were killed. The IDF said 25 of the fatalities were terrorists; human rights officials said 16 civilians were among the dead.

Fifty-eight Israelis were lightly or moderately injured, or treated for anxiety.

Most of the rockets from Gaza either landed in open fields or were intercepted by Israeli air defenses. Some struck homes, businesses and streets, causing injuries and significant property damage. Dozens of people were also hurt as they fell running to bomb shelters.

The flareup started after an Israeli missile killed Baha Abu al-Ata, a senior commander in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, whom Israel said was the “prime instigator” of terrorism from Gaza over the past year.

Rockets fired from Gaza towards Israel, followed the targeted killing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group field commander Baha Abu Al-Atta, by an Israeli strike, on November 12, 2019. (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)

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