Following eight hours of quiet amid rumours of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, rockets fired by armed Palestinians in the Gaza Strip landed in southern Israel overnight.
There had already been a sharp spike in violence in the Gaza border region over the weekend, as more than 100 rockets landed in southern Israel, sending residents of the region into bomb shelters and protected spaces, while school was cancelled for most children in the area. Three Israeli civilians were lightly wounded in Sderot and the Shar Hanegev region. In response, Israel’s air force carried out operations against strategic targets in the Gaza Strip, reportedly resulting in the deaths of five Palestinians.
It had been reported yesterday evening that Egyptian intelligence officials were mediating a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, in order to de-escalate the violence. Hamas has taken an increasingly direct role in rocket attacks on Israel over the past several weeks, which are also carried out by other armed groups. However, after eight hours of quiet, a rocket exploded in the vicinity of a house in the town of Netivot. The family inside the house was unharmed having taken cover, but the building itself was severely damaged and three other properties also suffered damage. Three additional rockets also hit southern Israel overnight. In response, Israel’s Air Force bombed strategic sites in the Gaza Strip including a rocket-launching site and a weapons storage site.
Yesterday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet “The world needs to understand that Israel will not sit idly by in the face of attempts to attack us. We are prepared to intensify the response.” Meanwhile, Defence Minister Ehud Barak gave a more specific warning, saying “If we are forced to go back into Gaza in order to deal Hamas a [serious] blow and restore security for all of Israel’s citizens, then we will not hesitate to do so.”