A 72-hour ceasefire went into effect at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning, the 29th day of Operation Protective Edge, bringing a tentative end for now to the fighting that has killed 67 Israelis, including three civilians, and more than 1,800 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials.
On Monday night, Egypt announced that Hamas had agreed to the ceasefire with no preconditions, three weeks after Israel agreed to a previous Egyptian ceasefire.
The sustained quiet Tuesday afternoon prompted Israel to send a negotiating team to Cairo for indirect talks aimed to reach a long-term truce with Palestinian armed groups in Gaza, Reuters reported Tuesday, quoting an Israeli official.
Just minutes before the ceasefire began on Tuesday, Hamas fired a rocket salvo at cities across central Israel, also reaching the Jerusalem area and the West Bank. One of the rockets hit a Palestinian house in Beit Sahour near Bethlehem. By the time the ceasefire started, all Israeli military personnel had withdrawn from Gaza, the IDF said Tuesday.
On Tuesday morning IDF statistics reported 3,356 rockets and mortars fired into Israel during the 29 days of fighting. Of these they said 578 were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-rocket system, while most of the rest fell in open areas.
The IDF also said Tuesday that they had hit 4,762 “terror targets” in the Gaza Strip and killed more than 900 Hamas gunmen. They said that the IDF also demolished 32 Hamas attack tunnels during the operation.
An optimistic tone about the withdrawal was sounded by Head of the Southern Command Major General Sami Turgeman, who told reporters near the Gaza border Tuesday that the operation has dealt a serious blow to Hamas and its rocket-firing capabilities, and that the IDF had found and demolished all of their infiltration tunnels leading into Israel. He added that the operation is still not over and that troops remain along the border ready to be sent back in if the situation escalates.
Though there was quiet in the south and in Gaza, the home front remained violent on Tuesday. Around mid-day a Palestinian man stabbed and moderately wounded a security guard in his 60s next to the entrance to the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim and fled the scene into a nearby Palestinian village.
That incident is the third terror attack inside Israel in less than 24 hours, and follows an incident in Jerusalem on Monday where a Palestinian man from East Jerusalem driving an industrial excavator ran over and killed an Israeli man and knocked over a bus, injuring the driver, before being shot and killed by police. About an hour later, also in Jerusalem, a soldier was shot and seriously wounded by a gunman who approached him on foot and fled into an Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem. Both incidents in the capital are being treated as “nationalist” crimes.
Also in Jerusalem Tuesday, there was rioting at the Temple Mount, with Palestinians throwing rocks and at least two Molotov cocktails at police, Israel Radio reported.