Netanyahu says Gaza campaign is not over despite ceasefire deal

Hours after an Egypt-brokered ceasefire deal was reached in Gaza, the Israeli military on Monday lifted protective restrictions on residents in the southern part of the country – but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that “the campaign is not over.”

“Over the past two days, we have hit Hamas and Islamic Jihad with great force, attacking over 350 targets and terrorist leaders and activists, and destroying terrorist infrastructure,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

“The campaign is not over and requires patience and judgment. We are preparing to continue,” he said about actions in the coast enclave, from where more than 600 rockets were fired.

“The goal was and remains to ensure the peace and security of the residents of the south. I send condolences to the families and wish a speedy recovery for the wounded,” the prime minister added.

The deadliest fighting between the two sides since a 2014 war had killed 29 on the Gaza side, both militants and civilians, while in Israel, four civilians were killed from incoming fire.

Over two days, in response to the rocket attacks, the Israeli army launched hundreds of strikes from the air and land, including one highly unusual targeted killing of a terrorist operative who the Israel Defense Forces said funneled money from Iran to terror groups in the Gaza Strip, The Times of Israel reported.

Calling the barrage “reckless and coordinated,” the IDF said 240 of the rockets had been intercepted by Israel’s air defenses

The Islamic Jihad — the militant group Israel accused of instigating the latest violence — confirmed that a “mutual and concurrent” truce had been brokered by Egypt.

A spokesman for Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs Gaza, said in response to Netanyhau’s statement that although the recent flare-up in violence had come to an end, the wider conflict would continue.

“The resistance managed to deter the IDF,” said Sami Abu Zuhri, referring to the Israel Defense Forces, the Times of Israel reported. “Our message is that this round is over, but the conflict will not end until we regain our rights.”

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said Egyptian mediators, along with officials from Qatar and the United Nations, helped reach the deal.

He said Hamas could still use “different pressuring tools” to force Israel into easing a crippling blockade of Gaza it has enforced along with Egypt.

The Israel Defense Forces said that as of 7 a.m. local time, “all protective restrictions in the home front will be lifted” — about 2 ½ hours after the ceasefire went into effect.

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In addition to Israeli opposition parties, one senior member of the prime minister’s Likud party criticized the ceasefire Monday morning.

Parliament member Gideon Sa’ar, a political rival of Netanyahu, said the terms of the agreement hold little to no benefit for Israel and will not deter future violence.

“The circumstances in which the ceasefire was reached are very lacking for Israel,” Sa’ar saidon Twitter.

Meanwhile, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, a former IDF chief of staff, laid the blame for the rocket strikes from the Gaza Strip at the government’s door.

“Nearly 700 projectiles were launched at Israeli territory, four were killed and many are wounded,” Gantz said in a statement. “All of this is the result of losing our deterrence, and it’s ending with another surrender to blackmail from Hamas and other terrorist groups.”

“All the government has done is, once again, led us to the next confrontation,” he charged.

On Monday, Gazans faced a first day of Ramadan overshadowed by funerals and the grim task of pulling bodies from the debris of destroyed buildings.

At Gaza City’s largest hospital, Shifa, relatives of those killed arrived to collect bodies for burial and prayers.

In the Sheikh Zayed neighborhood, residents were in shock a day after an Israeli air strike killed six people and destroyed four apartments.

“I have never seen in my life more horrifying images than I saw yesterday. I saw dismembered bodies, burnt up bodies,” said Ziyad Hammash, 60 who lives nearby.

There was pessimism in Gaza that the ceasefire would be a long-term solution.

“This round is over but I am afraid another will soon begin. We aspire to a day when nothing of this will happen,” said 55-year-old Adel Mohammad-Ali at one funeral.

Meanwhile, in communities in southern Israel, there was criticism that the latest round of fighting had ended without tangible results — and no hope that it would not rekindle soon.

“When we have the upper hand, we need once and for all to finish the terror because this will repeat itself and will not stop,” said Jacque Mendel, a resident of the coastal city of Ashdod, where a man was killed in his car by a rocket late Sunday.

With Post Wires

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