Hamas said to arrest mortar launchers

Gaza’s rulers deny they fired first projectile at Israel since conflict ended, reportedly take perpetrators into custody

Illustrative. A rocket is fired at Israel from Gaza on August 9, 2014. (AP/Dusan Vranic)
Illustrative. A rocket is fired at Israel from Gaza on August 9, 2014. (AP/Dusan Vranic)

Hamas has arrested those responsible for firing a mortar toward Israel on Tuesday evening, Israeli security sources said late Tuesday.

Ynet quoted the sources saying that after the mortar was fired, Hamas relayed a message to Israel saying it would arrest the perpetrators, which it did later on Tuesday.

According to the sources, Israel told Hamas — which denied that it had fired the projectile — that if it didn’t take action against the forces who violated the ceasefire between Israel and the Gaza Strip, Israel would have to intervene.

Earlier Tuesday evening, a mortar shell was fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, the Israel Defense Forces confirmed, the first since a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas went into effect on August 26.

The Code Red rocket warning siren did not sound, and the IDF said it was searching for the impact point that was believed to be somewhere near the border fence in the Eshkol Regional Council. An IDF official said the siren remained silent because IDF sensors trained on Gaza correctly ascertained that the shell would land near the fence, and not near population centers.

Army Radio reported that Eshkol residents heard an explosion nearby. Ynet reported that the projectile may have landed just inside the Gaza Strip.

No injuries or damage were reported.

Hamas denied that it was responsible for the launch, saying in a statement it was interested in maintaining the August 26 ceasefire.

The fire came hours after Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said he did not think Hamas would resume rocket fire on Israel.

Eshkol Regional Council head Haim Yallin said that it was still unclear whether the launch was part of a Hamas training session gone wrong, or whether it was directed at Israel, Ynet reported.

“We will not accept sporadic fire at our communities,” he added. “Israel’s leadership will evaluate how it chooses to protect its residents. We expect the government to act to bring quiet to the region.”

On Monday, the Code Red siren sounded near the Gaza Strip in what the IDF said was a false alarm.

Gaza border towns came under daily rocket fire over the course of a seven-week conflict between Israel and Hamas that ended when the two sides agreed to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire. Some 4,600 rockets and projectiles were fired at Israel during the 50-day conflict.

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