Israel and Islamic Jihad agreed Sunday to a cease-fire after a weekend of Israeli airstrikes and intercepted Islamic Jihad rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. The Egypt-brokered cease-fire, which took effect half an hour before midnight, was still holding Monday morning, "a sign the latest round of violence may have abated," The Associated Press reports. It was the worst violence between Israel and Gaza militants since Israel and Hamas fought an 11-day war a year ago.
At least 44 Palestinians were killed, including 15 children and four women, in the three days of violence, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. There were no reports of Israeli deaths. Israel's military said its Iron Dome missile defense system shot down 97 percent of the hundreds of rockets Islamic Jihad fired into Israel, including toward Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Israel also claimed that some of the deaths in Gaza were caused by misfired Islamic Jihad rockets.
Israel began this latest flare-up of violence with airstrikes Friday that killed Islamic Jihad leader Tayseer Jabari, the Iran-backed militant group's chief of operations in the northern Gaza Strip. Another Islamic Jihad leader, Khaled Mansour, was killed in an Israeli airstrike Saturday on a house in Rafah. Israel said it had launched Friday's strike in response to threats of strikes after it arrested a third Islamic Jihad leader, Bassem al-Saadi, in the West Bank.
Both sides called their military operations successful. "This is a victory for Islamic Jihad," the group's leader Ziad al-Nakhalah said in Tehran on Sunday. A senior Israeli diplomatic leader told AP the death of two leaders and waste of hundreds of rockets set Islamic Jihad back "decades."