Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad announced a truce around Gaza Wednesday after militants traded fire with Israel following the death in Israeli custody of a hunger striker from its ranks.
One Palestinian was killed and five wounded in pre-dawn air strikes Israel carried out in retaliation for rocket fire from Gaza, the territory’s health ministry said.
But mediators from Qatar, Egypt, and the United Nations succeeded in brokering a return to calm from 4 am (0100 GMT), sources in Islamic Jihad and fellow militant group Hamas told AFP.
Egypt — a peace broker between Israel and Palestinian militants in previous conflicts — corroborated the truce, though Israel did not immediately confirm any agreement.
“We managed to reach a calm with both sides responding to it from this morning,” an Egyptian security source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The Israeli army said the last warning sirens sounded near the Gaza border at around 5:30 am (0230 GMT).
Witnesses in the blockaded territory told AFP that several rockets were fired at Israel around this time.
By Wednesday morning, AFP journalists reported that calm had returned, with schools and shops open as normal. Life had also returned to the areas of Israel bordering Gaza.
“One round of confrontation has ended, but the march of resistance continues and will not stop,” said Tariq Salmi, a spokesperson for Islamic Jihad, in a statement.
“Our brave fighters have proven their loyalty and commitment to defending their people,” he added.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh demanded that Israel return the hunger striker’s body to his family.
“We stress – and as we have informed all the mediators who intervened – the necessity of handing over the body of the martyr Khader Adnan to his patient family,” Haniyeh said in a statement.
Adnan, 45, from Jenin in the occupied West Bank, died early Tuesday after an 87-day hunger strike following his arrest by Israel over ties to Islamic Jihad.
Qaddura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, said Palestinian authorities had asked Israel for Adnan’s body Tuesday but were yet to “obtain a response.”
A string of high-profile hunger strikes during at least 13 stints in Israeli custody had turned Adnan into a national hero, and revitalised hunger striking as a form of protest among Palestinians incarcerated in Israeli jails.
EU Urges ‘Proportionate’ Response
From Tuesday morning, around 100 rockets were fired by militant groups from Gaza towards Israel, according to Islamic Jihad.
In response, the Israeli army said it carried out a number of air strikes on Gaza early Wednesday, targeting “weapons manufacturing sites, outposts, military complexes, and an underground terror tunnel” belonging to Hamas.
In response to the dozens of rockets launched at Israel from Gaza, the IDF struck weapon manufacturing sites, military compounds and underground terrorist tunnels belonging to terrorist organizations.
Terrorism anywhere is a threat to civilians everywhere. pic.twitter.com/2yto4VDtir
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) May 3, 2023
The territory’s Hamas-run health ministry said a 58-year-old was killed and five others wounded in a strike north of Gaza City.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell expressed concern over the violence after talks with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen in Brussels Tuesday.
He condemned recent attacks against Israelis and stressed the EU’s commitment to Israel’s right to defend itself.
But he also warned “any response must be proportionate and in line with international law.”
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Adnan’s widow, Randa Mousa, said she did not want to see the firing of rockets from Gaza in response to her husband’s death.
“We don’t want a drop of blood to be shed,” she said.
The Israeli army said it had detected 104 launches from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, with most intercepted by air defenses or hitting open ground.
Israel generally holds Hamas responsible for all rocket fire from Gaza, regardless of which militant group launched it. The Islamist group has controlled the territory since ousting loyalists of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in 2007.
In August 2022, three days of fighting between Islamic Jihad and Israel left 49 Palestinians dead, including 19 children and 12 militants, according to the United Nations.