Rockets hit Israel hours after Hamas says it’s ready for ceasefire

Schools closed in Ashkelon; Hamas says it will end attacks if Israel stops hitting Gaza

Smoke is seen from the Israeli side of the Israel Gaza border in southern Israel after an air strike by Israeli air force on Hamas base in the Gaza Strip in June (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)
Smoke is seen from the Israeli side of the Israel Gaza border in southern Israel after an air strike by Israeli air force on Hamas base in the Gaza Strip in June (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)

Five rockets hit southern Israel early Thursday morning, hours after Hamas announced it would be willing to cease its fire on Israel.

There were no reports of injuries or damage after the Kassam rockets slammed into the Eshkol region.

A number or rockets hit open areas near the Gaza Strip later in the day, with no reports of injuries or damage.

The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigade, Hamas’s military wing, announced on Wednesday evening that it is prepared to cooperate with Egyptian efforts to end the current round of rocket fire into Israel provided that Israel also cease its air strikes on Gaza.

The announcement came after three days of attacks and counter-attacks between Israel and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Since Monday, over 120 missiles have been fired into Israel, including more than 70 fired on Wednesday alone. One rocket was shot down by the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system near Netivot.

In the announcement, Hamas said that it will stop firing rockets, but will not disassemble its launchers as it stands ready to “defend and attack” at all times.

Israel has yet to respond to the ceasefire offer.

Also Thursday morning, Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin announced classes in the seaside city would be canceled after two rockets were fired on the city Wednesday night. One rocket was shot down by Iron Dome and the second landed in an open area near the city.

On Wednesday evening, Israeli Air Force jets bombed terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip following an unremitting rocket and mortar barrage on southern Israeli towns throughout the day.

On Wednesday, Egypt’s ambassador to the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Othman, told the Hamas-affiliated website Al-Resalah that Egypt was attempting to contain the situation in Gaza and prevent violence there from deteriorating into full-fledged war.

“The Israeli military escalation in the Gaza Strip is unjustified and completely unacceptable,” Othman was quoted as saying.

In another interview, with Bethlehem-based news agency Maan, Othman said Israel must stop its strikes in Gaza first in order for the factions in Gaza to cease responding in kind.

Palestinian sources reported that an Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade position in the Nusirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip had been bombed. Three men were reportedly injured.

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz told graduating officer training cadets on Wednesday that “the terror attack on the Israel-Egypt border… along with the ongoing rocket fire on the communities of southern Israel, reflects our enemies’ intent to harm Israeli civilians. In the face of these threats stands a strong and powerful IDF, prepared to respond to any threat, at any time.”

Earlier on Wednesday, the IDF reported that Raleb Armilat, a senior member of the Mujahideen Shura Council of Jerusalem, the group that claimed credit for Monday’s cross-border attack in southern Israel, was killed in a Rafah airstrike.

A second terrorist, identified as Mohammed Rashdan, 26, was severely injured. He was reportedly involved in weapons procurement and rocket fire.

According to the IDF, both Armilat and Rashun were “actively involved” in planning a new terror attack at the time.

Both were riding a motorcycle north of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip

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