With a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants holding after nearly three days of violence, Gaza’s sole power plant resumed operations Monday and Israel began reopening crossings into the territory.
Israel also lifted security restrictions on southern Israeli communities after the Egyptian-mediated truce took effect late Sunday.
War-weary people in Gaza and Israel were left to pick up the pieces after another round of violence — the worst since an 11-day war between Israel and the territory’s militant Hamas rulers last year.
Since Friday, Israeli aircraft had pummeled targets in Gaza, while the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group fired hundreds of rockets at Israel.
46 Palestinians killed
Over three days of fighting, 46 Palestinians were killed, including 16 children and four women, and 311 were wounded, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. Twelve of those killed were Islamic Jihad militants, one was from a smaller armed group, and two were Hamas-affiliated policemen who were not taking part in the fighting, according to the armed factions.
Israel estimated a total of 47 Palestinians were killed, including 14 killed by misfired Islamic Jihad rockets. It said that 20 fighters and seven civilians died in Israeli airstrikes and that it is still investigating six deaths.
No Israelis were killed or seriously wounded in the fighting.
The violence had threatened to spiral into another all-out war but was contained because Hamas stayed on the sidelines, possibly because it fears Israeli reprisals and an unraveling of economic understandings with Israel, including the issuing of Israeli work permits that provide a vital source of income for thousands of Gaza residents.
Israel and Hamas have fought four wars since the group overran the territory in 2007. The clashes have exacted a staggering toll on the impoverished territory’s 2.3 million Palestinian residents.
The latest violence may have bolstered the political fortunes of Israel’s caretaker prime minister, Yair Lapid, who lacked experience leading military operations. He unleashed the offensive less than three months before a general election in which he is campaigning to keep the job.
“All our goals were achieved,” Lapid said Monday. “The entire senior military command of Islamic Jihad in Gaza was successfully targeted within three days.”
Gaza crossings reopened
Israel began to reopen crossings into Gaza for humanitarian needs and said it would fully open them if calm continued. Fuel trucks were seen entering the main cargo crossing and heading for the power plant, which shut down Saturday after Israel closed the crossings.
That added to the misery at the height of the summer heat in the territory, which is under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade and suffers from a chronic power crisis that leaves residents with only a few hours of electricity a day.
Life for hundreds of thousands of Israelis was disrupted during the violence, even as the country’s sophisticated Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted many of the rockets.
Israel launched its operation with a strike Friday on an Islamic Jihad commander, saying there were “concrete threats” of an anti-tank missile attack against Israelis in response to the arrest last week of a senior Islamic Jihad member in the occupied West Bank. That arrest came after months of Israeli raids in the West Bank following a spate of Palestinian attacks.
Israel killed another Islamic Jihad leader in a strike on Saturday.