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Israel-Gaza truce ends worst fighting since 2009 war. Did Iran have a role? (+video)

The Gaza fighting marked the rise of the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian proxy that analysts say could be used to try to divert Israel's focus away from Iran's nuclear program.

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A tentative truce between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza took hold today after the worst flare-up in three years brought the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad militia into the spotlight.

After Israel killed a senior militant on March 9, it was the relatively fringe group Islamic Jihad that fired at least 180 rockets across Israel's border, allowing it to claim the mantle as the leader of the Palestinian military opposition – a title that once was an undisputed possession of Hamas.

While the rockets did little damage, thanks to Israel's Iron Dome antiballistic system, Islamic Jihad’s move has played well on the Palestinian street, which blames Israel for violating months of relative calm.

"I felt so happy when I saw hundreds of Israelis running to hide in safe shelters as our modest rockets hit their cities," says university student Ismail Radi. "But I wonder why Hamas is not helping ... they are stronger than Islamic Jihad and they have a resistance party that is supposed to confront Israel, they should react on the ground."

Indeed, the emergence of Islamic Jihad marks a role reversal in the Gaza Strip, which is run by Hamas.

“Islamic Jihad is taking the role that Hamas used to play five years ago,” says Mkaimar Abusada, a political science professor at Gaza’s Al Azhar University. “There is satisfaction among the Palestinian people that Islamic Jihad responded and retaliated against Israel. Hamas is under huge embarrassment in Gaza because it didn’t respond.”


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