Ceasefire begins in Gaza

TEL AVIV, July 17 (PNA/ITAR-TASS) — A five-hour ceasefire has begun in the Gaza Strip on Thursday. Israel and Palestine agreed to halt attacks from 10am to 3pm local time in order to allow people in the Gaza to get supplies. This would also allow the UN mission in the State of Palestine to deliver the humanitarian aid to the region. A source in the Gaza Strip told an ITAR-TASS correspondent in the region that several dozens of Russians who permanently reside in the central and southern parts of the Palestinian enclave will go to Egypt through the Rafah border checkpoint.

An Israeli army officer said that the ceasefire had been requested by United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry. The press service of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said in its statement that Israel will respond if Hamas launches attacks during ceasefire.

Israel’s Protective Edge operation in the Gaza Strip has entered its tenth day. On Wednesday, Hamas rejected a peace initiative brokered by Egypt. Israel accepted the proposal on Tuesday and halted attacks for six hours. Over this time, Hamas militants fired 47 rockets at Israel. As a result, the IDF resumed the operation.

Deterioration of Israeli-Palestinian relations

Israeli-Palestinian relations grew sour after June 12, 2014, when three Jewish teenagers were abducted in the West Bank. Later the teenagers were found killed. Israel accused militants of the Palestinian militant Islamist group Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement), which controls the Gaza Strip, of committing the crime.

The operation to search for the teenagers continued for more than two weeks and was accompanied by searches, arrests of Palestinian activists and shellings of the Palestinian territory.

On July 1, 2014, a 16-year-old resident of the East Jerusalem’s Palestinian Arab neighborhood of Shuafat was kidnapped and killed. Six ultra-right Jewish activists were arrested for the crime. The death of the Palestinian teenager caused riots among Palestinians.

On July 8, 2014, the Israel Defense Forces announced the start of the operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip against Hamas militants. The IDF made strikes on 50 targets in the Gaza Strip, most of which were launching platforms for rockets. Five Palestinians were killed and some 20 were wounded.

The immediate reason for the operation was that cities in southern Israel were massively shelled by Hamas military wing Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. According to the Israeli army’s press service, on July 7, some 90 missiles were fired on Israel from the Gaza Strip. As of early July, 450 missiles had been fired since the start of 2014.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the IDF to prepare for a possible ground operation. Israel announced mobilization of 1,500 reservists and sent two army brigades to the border with Gaza.

Since the start of their activity on December 14, 1987, Hamas militants set a course for liberation of Israel-occupied Palestinian territories. The group has made a few dozen terrorist attacks against military and civilian facilities of Israel.

Hamas regularly shells Israel’s territory with homemade rockets. In response, Israel shells Gaza and holds military operations there to suppress militant activity and destroy Hamas’ military structure. According to Hamas, 1,365 Israelis died in 1987-2011 in terrorist attacks. (PNA/Itar-Tass)