(JTA) — Fighting between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza continued on Friday, even as reports late in the day indicated renewed momentum toward a ceasefire.
More than 30 Palestinians in Gaza, including civilians and militants, have been killed in Israeli airstrikes on leaders of Islamic Jihad, which is designated by the United States and European Union as a terror group. One Israeli civilian has been killed by a rocket from Gaza.
Early Friday morning saw a lull in the violence, which resumed after Islamic Jihad rockets targeted areas south of Jerusalem. By Friday night, Egypt was attempting to mediate a humanitarian ceasefire, according to the Israeli news website Ynet. Since Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is mourning his recently deceased mother, he, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials have discussed the conflict as Gallant sits shiva.
The fighting has also elicited predictions from Israeli officials of a potential future broader military offensive. This week, far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said on Israeli Channel 14, a TV station, that Israel may have to recapture Gaza, from which it withdrew its military and settlements in 2005. Orit Strock, who is likewise a government minister and a member of Smotrich’s far-right faction, also predicted that Israel would retake the coastal strip.
“I estimate that the moment will come when there will be no choice — the IDF will need to reconquer Gaza, to break apart the hostile terrorist entity that is there, and to demilitarize it,” Smotrich said, adding, “At this moment, this is not relevant, we’re not discussing it now. We were just talking about what the solution will be in the end.”
The fighting, which began on Tuesday and has seen nearly 1,000 rockets fired at Israel, has led to the cancelation of this week’s mass protests against the Israeli government in Tel Aviv. The protests have taken place every Saturday night for much of the year and regularly draw tens of thousands of people.
A concert by the Backstreet Boys, the U.S. pop group, was also canceled. It’s the second time that the boy band — known for its hits such as “I Want It That Way” — has had a concert in Israel foiled due to rocket fire from Gaza. They were also forced to nix an appearance during the 2014 Gaza War. The cancellation of the concert came one day after a performance by Israeli singer Aviv Geffen drew 40,000 to a park in Tel Aviv.