Palestinian security officers hold back crowds of curious onlookers in the aftermath of Israeli airstrike in Gaza, in 2006. (Photographer: George Azar/ Bloomberg News)

Israel, Gaza Silence Guns After Harshest Fighting Since 2014

(Bloomberg) -- The familiar ritual came full circle.

Israel and Gaza Strip militants reached a truce after the most intense round of fighting since their 2014 war, and life on both sides of the border returned to normal Monday. The violence, which claimed the lives of 27 Palestinians and four Israelis, had threatened to undo months of Egyptian-brokered efforts to reach a long-term truce.

Israel, which doesn’t communicate directly with militant groups in the Hamas-ruled enclave, didn’t officially acknowledge an agreement to end the fighting. But special restrictions on the rocket-bombarded south were lifted, the flow of natural gas from an offshore field were restored, and schools and roads were reopened.

“The campaign isn’t over, and demands patience and judiciousness,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement, alluding to the expectation the sides will clash again. “We’re getting ready for what comes next.”

Israel, Gaza Silence Guns After Harshest Fighting Since 2014

While there was no official word on the terms of the agreement, Gaza’s Sama News website cited unidentified diplomatic officials as saying it was reached after Israel threatened to unleash “massive” firepower and resumed its assassinations of leading Hamas figures on Sunday after a years-long lull.

A major point of contention for Hamas had been what they say is a delay in transferring Qatari aid and other measures to relieve the humanitarian distress in the territory, which has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade for more than a decade and in the past year has lost significant funding from President Mahmoud Abbas’s rival Palestinian Authority. The flow of funds was made all the more urgent by the advent of the Muslim fasting month, Ramadan, which began on Monday.

Israel, Gaza Silence Guns After Harshest Fighting Since 2014

Israel, which suffered its first civilian casualties in clashes with Gaza since 2014, had an interest in speeding an end to the fighting. It commemorates its memorial and independence days this week, and militants had vowed to ruin the Eurovision song contest in Tel Aviv in mid-May. Canceling the competition -- or holding it under rocket fire -- could have harmed Israel’s effort to showcase itself as a top-tier tourist destination, and that gave militants leverage to press for money or concessions discussed after previous rounds of fighting.

Israel, Gaza Silence Guns After Harshest Fighting Since 2014

Nearly 700 rockets bombarded Israel in less than two days, and Israeli aircraft struck about 350 targets, including military compounds and training camps, naval vessels and weapons facilities, the army said. The military said it also destroyed tunnels dug by the Islamic Jihad militant group to infiltrate Israel.

The two sides have fought three wars since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, but have stopped short of a fourth despite repeated confrontations over the past year. Israeli officials have said their priority is to confront Iran’s attempts to entrench itself militarily on Israel’s Syrian border, and don’t want to get bogged down in Gaza.

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