Israel and militants in Gaza have agreed to a ceasefire ending a day of cross-border fire but right-wing members of the Israeli government and local mayors have reacted angrily over what was perceived as a lacklustre military response by the Israeli army.
The ceasefire went into effect early on Wednesday morning following mediation from United Nations Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland, assisted by Egypt and Qatar.
The truce followed a day of rocket fire from militants and air strikes and tank fire from Israel which followed the death in an Israeli prison of Khader Adnan, a senior Islamic Jihad member in the West Bank who had been on hunger strike for almost three months.
Israel said 104 rockets were fired in total – 11 fell into the sea, 14 landed inside Gaza, 24 were intercepted by Israel’s air defence system and 48 fell in open areas. Seven people were wounded in southern Israel.
Israeli jets and helicopters targeted Hamas training compounds, military outposts, weapon storehouses and a tunnel. The Israeli military insisted that Hamas, which controls Gaza, was responsible for all events in the territory even though Islamic Jihad cells fired the rockets.
Militants said they had evacuated all sites deemed possible targets but one Gaza resident was killed in the Israeli strikes.
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasem said that the organisation had taken steps to ensure that Israel paid a price for its crimes and that Hamas would continue to support Palestinian prisoners.
Alon Davidi, mayor of the Israeli city of Sderot where a number of rockets fell, accused the government of giving a life insurance policy to the militant leaders in Gaza.
“Was it for this that [prime minister Binyamin] Netanyahu formed a government? You don’t restore security by limp actions. I call on the government to resume the policy of targeted killings and to initiate. We don’t love war, but we are willing to sit in the bomb shelters a long time if necessary.”
Also criticising the government for failing to use more force, the far-right Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Strength), a member of the ruling coalition, boycotted votes in the Knesset parliament on Wednesday and threatened not to vote with the government “until the prime minister understands that the government’s goal is to be fully right-wing”.
“First they said there is judicial reform, then Ramadan, but now there is no reason why Israel should shy away from a powerful retaliation,” the party said in a statement. Party leader Itamar Ben-Gvir was also angry that he was not invited to the discussions on how to respond to the rocket fire.
Mr Netanyahu’s Likud Party said in a statement that “the prime minister, defence minister, the army and security agencies are the ones who manage the sensitive and complex security events that Israel faces”.
“The prime minister is the one who decides who is relevant to which discussion. If this is unacceptable to Ben-Gvir, he does not need to remain in the government.”