President Joe Biden has praised Israel for defending its people and saving “countless lives” during three days of tit-for-tat strikes, which left the leadership of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) decimated and dozens of Palestinians dead. A shaky truce in Gaza came into effect at 11:30pm local time on Sunday.
“My support for Israel’s security is long-standing and unwavering — including its right to defend itself against attacks,” the US leader said in a statement on Sunday night, as the ceasefire appeared to be holding despite a hectic start.
Just minutes after the truce went into effect, several rockets were reportedly fired from Gaza and intercepted by the Israeli defenses. Nobody took responsibility for the attack and the IDF reported no strikes in response.
“Over these recent days, Israel has defended its people from indiscriminate rocket attacks launched by the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the United States is proud of our support for Israel’s Iron-Dome, which intercepted hundreds of rockets and saved countless lives,” Biden added.
Biden also called for a “timely and thorough investigation” into civilian casualties in Gaza, which he called a “tragedy, whether by Israeli strikes against Islamic Jihad positions or the dozens of Islamic Jihad rockets that reportedly fell inside Gaza.”
Palestinian officials say that at least 41 people have been killed in Gaza since Friday – among them six children – while more than 265 have been wounded. Israel has denied responsibility for at least nine of these deaths, which the IDF blamed on a Palestinian rocket that fell short after launch.
The flare-up of tensions began last Monday, after Israel arrested Islamic Jihad’s West Bank leader, Bassem Saadi, with a Palestinian teenager killed during the raid. Amid an outcry among Palestinians, the PIJ threatened retaliation and placed its fighters in Gaza on high alert.
On Friday, the IDF launched Operation Breaking Dawn, citing the “imminent threat of attack against Israeli civilians posed by the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization.” The first strikes killed a senior PIJ commander, Taysir al-Jabari, and by Sunday “essentially, all of the senior officials of Gaza’s Islamic Jihad have been eliminated,” according to the Israeli military.
In the meantime PIJ militants have been launching endless volleys of rockets at Israel, over 580 in total, according to the IDF’s latest update. Israel says 97% of the projectiles were intercepted mid-air by the Iron Dome missile defense systems, while “120+ rockets landed in Gaza and killed innocent Palestinians.” No casualties on the Israeli side have been reported.
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