At least three Palestinians were injured Thursday in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun while apparently preparing to launch a rocket at Israeli territory, sources in Gaza said.
The rocket exploded while still on the ground, most probably due to a technical malfunction, Gazan sources told The Times of Israel. The condition of the three Palestinians was not immediately clear.
According to the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency, five additional people were wounded in Beit Hanoun as a result of a blast, including an elderly women and two children. The report did not specify whether the explosion was related to the failed rocket launch.
According to Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra, the five injured Palestinians were transferred to the nearby Kamal Adwan hospital.
The explosion was followed shortly after by reports of launches aimed at the Shaar Hanegev and Sderot areas near Gaza. At least one rocket was reported to fall in an open area.
The botched launch came hours after Gazan terror group Islamic Jihad offered to cease hostilities with Israel, as violence in the region threatened to spiral out of control.
On Wednesday, over 60 rockets were fired from Gaza at southern Israel, in the largest barrage since November 2012. Israel responded by striking 29 targets in Gaza from the air.
Thursday saw a number of rockets fired at Israel before the ceasefire was announced. Two more rockets were launched at Ashkelon after the ceasefire was declared.
After the ceasefire announcement, Israeli officials said the military would respond to “calm with calm,” according to Israel Radio.
The rockets fell in open areas and no damage or casualties were reported, according to Channel 2.
Islamic Jihad’s announcement of a ceasefire earlier in the afternoon came shortly after the IDF said it had launched an airstrike on Gaza in response to the rocket fire.
Egypt helped mediate the ceasefire, according to Ynet news,
Earlier in the day, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned escalating violence, including rocket fire from Gaza. ”We condemn all military escalation, including rockets,” he said at a press conference in Bethlehem with British Prime Minister David Cameron.
His statements came hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized Abbas for condemning Israeli airstrikes on the Strip, but not the rocket fire from Gaza.
Thursday morning saw five rockets fired at southern Israel from the Strip. Two failed to reach Israel, while three set off warning sirens in Ashdod and Ashkelon.
The Iron Dome anti-missile system downed one of those rockets over Ashkelon, while two others fell in unpopulated areas.
Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report