Thanks to Egypt’s intervention, Israel received a reprieve Thursday from a recent barrage of mortar and rocket fire from militants nested in the densely populated, impoverished and blockaded Gaza Strip, according to media reports.
The recent exchanges, which included responding Israeli airstrikes, claimed the lives of at least six people -- a Palestinian noncombatant, three Gaza-based militants and two Thai agricultural guest workers in southern Israel -- according to the available media reports. On both sides of the tense border, several other people were injured.
The violence risks sending Israel and Gaza into another escalating conflict like the one seen in the winter of 2008-09 in the three-week-long Operation Cast Lead that included an Israeli ground invasion. But, at least for now, the escalation has been checked.
“The Egyptians negotiated a cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian armed groups,” a Palestinian source told Agence France Presse.
An Israeli military representative said the last rocket launched from Gaza occurred Wednesday evening local time.
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"The Egyptians have a very impressive ability to articulate to [Hamas] that its primary interest is not to attack and use terror against Israel or other targets," Israeli defense official Amos Gilad told Israeli Army Radio, according to Reuters.
It’s unclear how Egypt managed to orchestrate a cease-fire, but it comes on the eve of a major four-day Muslim holiday.
On Wednesday during his televised speech for Eid al-Adha, which commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael to prove his loyalty to God, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi said his administration is committed to supporting the Palestinians “without declaring war against anyone.”
Exchanges flare up frequently between militants in Gaza and the Israeli Defense Force.
The last time Israeli ground forces were deployed into Gaza was Jan. 3, 2009, during the last major conflagration that, as usual, produced a highly disproportionate number of civilian deaths. More than 400 women and children noncombatants were killed in Gaza. Palestinian civilian casualties lead to fruitful propaganda campaigns in the Arab world and the creation of more anti-Israeli militants.
For its part, Israel claims Hamas militants orchestrate rocket attacks from mosques, hospitals and schools, hoping to incur civilian casualties to use in its anti-Zionist campaigns.
Meanwhile, 1.6 million Arabs in Gaza mostly live in poverty amid failing infrastructure and under a blockade since 2006 when Hamas came to power. Despite a 2010 easing by Israel, the blockade has crippled the local economy.