Region falls silent after 222 rockets pound southern Israel over past few days; Egyptian parliament calls Israel’s response a war crime, demands end to friendly relations
Tuesday, March 13, 2012 | Ryan Jones – israeltoday
The massive barrage of rockets and mortars shells from Gaza that pummeled southern Israel for the past few days finally died down on Tuesday as Israel and Palestinian terror groups settled into an informal and fragile ceasefire.
Dozens of Israelis were wounded this week as 222 rockets struck across the northern Negev and parts of the coastal plain, and nearly one million civilians were forced to spend most of their time in bomb shelters. Schools in the area have been closed all week, and Israel’s emotional crisis hotline, Eran, recorded a 150 percent increase in calls.
In light of the fear they had instilled in so many Israelis, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad marked the ceasefire by declaring “victory for the blood of the martyrs, the Palestinian people and the resistance.”
Israeli army chief Gen. Benny Gantz said Israel would halt its retaliatory air strikes as long the terrorists cease launching rockets into southern Israel. “Quiet will be answered with quiet, and fire will be answered with fire,” said Gantz.
Israel responded to the unprecedented rocket fire with 37 air strikes on terrorist facilities and rocket squads. Twenty-six Palestinians were killed in the air strikes, nearly all of them terrorists.
Gantz lamented that Israel had been unable to avoid some civilian casualties. “Twenty-two (of the Palestinians killed) were enemy forces, but sadly four civilians who were not involved in the clashes and were nearby were killed,” said Gantz. “We have made and continue to make every effort to hit the necessary targets but we will go as far as humanly possible to protect our citizens.”
The Islamists that now dominate Egypt’s parliament did not care about the identities of the dead Palestinians, nor that Israel’s military leaders had expressed regret over having to fight among civilian populations. The Egyptian parliament viewed Israel’s strikes on Gaza as nothing short of war crimes and on Monday voted unanimously to expel Israel’s ambassador from Cairo.
“Egypt will never be the friend, partner or ally of the Zionist entity which we consider as the first enemy of Egypt and the Arab nation,” read the text of the motion approved by Egyptian lawmakers.