In past conflicts, rights groups have accused Israel of committing war crimes due to high civilian deaths. Israel says it does its utmost to avoid civilian casualties and holds militant groups responsible because they operate in heavily populated residential areas.
The latest outburst was the heaviest fighting between the sides in months, pushing the region closer toward a full-blown war. But in signs that both sides were trying to show restraint, Israel avoided attacks on the ruling Hamas militant group, targeting only the smaller and more militant Islamic Jihad faction. Hamas, meanwhile, appeared to remain on the sidelines.
Israel says it is trying to avoid conflict with Hamas, the more powerful militant group that rules Gaza, and limit the fighting to Islamic Jihad.
Israel and Hamas have fought four wars since the Islamic militant group took control of Gaza in 2007.
Late Wednesday, Egypt’s Extra News television channel, which has close ties to Egyptian security agencies, said the Egyptian intelligence had brokered a cease-fire. Israeli officials confirmed that Egypt was trying to facilitate a cease-fire. Speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss behind-the-scenes diplomacy, they said Israel would evaluate the situation based on actions on the ground, not declarations.
Islamic Jihad said it would continue firing rockets. Mohamad al-Hindi, an official with the group, said a sticking point in the talks was that the Palestinians wanted an Israeli commitment to stop targeted killing operations, such as the ones that killed three top Islamic Jihad commanders early Tuesday.
As rockets streaked through the sky, Israeli TV stations showed air defense systems intercepting rockets above the skies of Tel Aviv. In the nearby suburb of Ramat Gan, people lay face-down on the ground as they took cover.
The army said that schools would remain closed and restrictions on large gatherings would remain in place in southern Israel until at least Friday. Residents were instructed to stay near bomb shelters.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank, where Israeli-Palestinian violence has surged over the past year, the Palestinian Health Ministry said a 30-year-old man died after he was shot by Israeli troops in a raid on Wednesday.