The Ceasefire, and Where Things Now Stand Between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said Sunday that Israel had not made any concessions to Palestinian Islamic Jihad as part of the ceasefire agreement that brought an end to the latest round of violence after five days.

“We did not promise anything,” Cohen told Army Radio when pressed, confirming the account of a senior Egyptian official who told The Times of Israel on Saturday that Israel would not sign a ceasefire agreement that entailed any conditions beyond the IDF holding its fire.

PIJ has pushed for Israel to release the body of its senior member Khader Adnan, who died earlier this month after hunger striking in Israeli prison for 86 days in protest of his detention. Islamic Jihad had also demanded that Israel commit to halting the targeted killing of its leaders, the Egyptian official said, adding that Israel refused the inclusion of either demand in a ceasefire deal.

[They’re] only willing to cease firing if the other side does too. No strings attached,” the Egyptian official said Saturday.

As the Egyptian official testified, Israel promised nothing except quiet for quiet. It did not, as the PIJ has claimed, promise to return the body of hunger-striker Khader Adnan. Nor did Israel promise to end its practice of targeted assassinations of leaders of terror groups, including those belonging to the PIJ. Egypt fully backs Israel’s version of the ceasefire agreement.


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The Kan public broadcaster reported that the text of the ceasefire states the sides agreed to “stop targeting civilians, stop destroying houses and stop targeting people.” The wording was vague enough to allow Israel to maintain that it did not agree to cease targeted killings of PIJ leadership, while Islamic Jihad can claim that it did, Kan said….

It’s hard to see how any one could conclude, as PIJ does, that Israel agreed to end targeted killlngs of PIJ leaders. Israel only agreed to stop “targeting civilians,” but of course Israel never targets civiiians, though a handful were unavoidably killed in Operation Arrow and Shield. And more importantly , those who are the objects of targeted assassinations, like the six PIJ commanders Israel killed, are not civilians.

The Egyptian-brokered ceasefire put a stop to five days of intense fighting that saw over 1,200 rockets launched at Israel, with the Israeli military responding by targeting Islamic Jihad members, command centers, rocket launchers and other capabilities in the Palestinian enclave….

Cohen said Sunday that Israel achieved everything it wanted to in the IDF’s Operation Shield and Arrow. “We made it very clear that those who try to harm Israel will be punished. We have seen in the last four to five days that Israel settles its accounts with all who threaten us.”

This is what the IDF achieved in Operation Shield and Arrow:

First, the decapitation of the PIJ’s senior leadership, with six senior commanders killed.

Second, the destruction of weapons storehouses. and thousands of weapons.

Third, the destruction of weapons production facilities.

Fourth, the destruction of command-and-control centers.

Fifth, the destruction of PIJ training sites.

Shield and Arrow has been, as Prime Minister Netanayhu said, a “perfect” operation.

Israel killed 18 Islamic Jihad operatives in addition to at least 10 Palestinian civilians, an IDF official said Saturday. The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry put the death toll from the five-day battle at 33, but the IDF official noted that some Gaza civilians were likely killed by PIJ rockets that landed inside the Strip. Another 151 Palestinians in Gaza were injured, according to the enclave’s health ministry.

Israel killed 18 terror operatives and only ten civilians, according to the IDF. The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza put out a figure close to that of Israel: a total of 33 people killed. The discrepancy in the two figures is slight. It is likely that the higher death toll put out by the Health Ministry in Gaza included the four Palestinians known to have been killed in Gaza by PIJ rockets that fell short, and may also include the Palestinian worker in Israel who was killed by a PIJ rocket. That would explain the figure of 33 deaths, rather than the 28 deaths calculated by Israel.

Only one Israeli civilian was killed by a PIJ rocket: an elderly woman in Rehovot. It was not for want of trying by the PIJ that the Israeli deaths were so low. The PIJ hurled more than 1,200 rockets into Israeli towns and cities. But all public buildings in Israel, and most of the residences in towns and cities near Gaza, have secure rooms that can withstand blasts, and Israelis have been trained to run to those shelters when sirens sound. Furthermore, Israel had its Iron Dome anti-missile systems intercepting 91% of the PIJ rockets that appeared to endanger Israeli lives. The Israelis, wishing to husband their Iron Dome anti-missile batteries, did not bother to intercept those rockets whose trajectories showed they would fall harmlessly in open fields. For the first time, Israel successfully used its David’s Sling missile defense system to destroy, in flight, a rocket headed for Tel Aviv. Because of the widespread presence of home shelters, the failures of PIJ rockets, and Israel’s superb anti- missile defenses, only one Israeli was killed despite those 1,200 rockets launched from Gaza into Israel.

Cohen also made a point of highlighting the support Israel received from countries around the world over the past week, pointing to the effort by the US and several UN Security Council members to block a joint statement expressing concern over the violence.

The Americans stood foursquare with Israel. Biden declared “Israel has a right to defend itself” and made no statement of sympathy for the Gazans. The EU issued a statement supporting Israel’s right to defend itself. A resolution “deploring the violence” — taken to mean Israel should halt its airstrikes — at the UN Security Council was vetoed not by the US alone, but also by the U.K. And several of its non-permanent members also voted against the resolution.

However, the past week also saw many countries raise concern over the civilian casualties that resulted from Israeli airstrikes. Jordan, Egypt, Qatar and the UAE were among the countries that issued condemnations, though the backlash was largely limited to the Arab world.

The PA surely cannot both announce the deaths of those senior commanders and of other PIJ operatives, and at the same time insist that all 33 deaths were of civilians. Using Israeli figures, only ten civilians in Gaza died, and four of the ten deaths were caused by the PIJ’s own rockets falling short and landing in Gaza. Israel caused only six civilian deaths, an astonishing feat, and a tribute to the precision of its pilots. As Colonel Richard Kemp continually reminds us, “Israel has the most moral army in the world.”

Asked whether Israel would reroute the Thursday-scheduled Flag March of religious nationalists through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City scheduled amid international pressure, Cohen insisted that the rally would go ahead as planned….

The Flag March’s route will not be changed. In 2021, to avoid violence at a particularly tense time just after the 18-day Operation Breaking the Wave, Israel rerouted the March, so that Jewish marchers would enter the Old City through the Jaffa Gate and from there walk to the Western Wall, rather than pass through the Damascus Gate and Muslim Quarter on their way to the Wall. When that re-routing took place, instead of expressions of gratitude for the concession, the Palestinians gloated at their victory. Some Arabs spoke of stopping the Flag March through the Old. City altogether. The current Israeli government wants to make clear that there will no longer be unilateral concessions made to the Arabs; the Flag March will take its usual route, through the Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter, to the Western Wall.

And the Palestinians, chastened by what they have just seen happen to the PIJ in Gaza, will as they sullenly look at the Flag Marchers along that hallowed route be very, very quiet.

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