Israeli officials mum on reported armistice

Hamas claims truce reached, but rocket fire, Israeli air strikes continue

No reports of Israeli injuries, as at least 30 rockets are launched towards Israel after 10 p.m. Monday

Illustrative: Rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel on March 25, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)
Illustrative: Rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel on March 25, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

The Hamas terrorist group said it accepted an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreement with Israel late Monday night. But terrorists in the Gaza Strip continued to fire projectiles at southern Israel into the night, Israeli retaliatory raids were ongoing, and the violence in the south showed no signs of abating.

There was no confirmation or comment from Israeli officials on the reported truce, which the terror group declared was in effect at 10 p.m.

Less than an hour after it was announced, however, sirens in southern Israel warning of incoming rocket fire were triggered multiple times and continued after midnight, indicating the fighting had not ceased.

The army said around 30 launches from Gaza had been identified since 10 p.m., when Hamas said it was entering into a ceasefire.

Several of the rockets were intercepted by Iron Dome, while others fell in open areas and did not cause damage.

In response IDF aircraft struck 15 targets in Gaza, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad military compounds in the north of the territory.

Fire and smoke in Gaza City during Israeli strikes on March 25, 2019 (Mahmud Hams / AFP)

Departing the US for Israel around 2 a.m. (Israel time), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would head straight for IDF headquarters upon landing in Tel Aviv Tuesday afternoon. “We will deal with these issues,” he said. “We gave a very powerful response. Hamas needs to know that we won’t hesitate to go in [to Gaza] and take any required steps.”

An earlier barrage from Gaza, which sent thousands of Israelis running to bomb shelters, came shortly before the ceasefire statement.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, 30 projectiles were fired at Israel before 10 p.m.

The Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted several of the projectiles and most of the other rockets and mortars fell in open areas, the army said.

That attack came as Israel carried out a bombing campaign against Hamas targets, including the office of leader Ismail Haniyeh, in response to a rocket attack earlier in the day from Gaza that flattened a central Israeli home and injured seven people.

There were no immediate reports of injuries caused by the projectiles.

A home in the southern town of Sderot was hit by shrapnel during the barrage. It was not immediately clear if the house was hit by one of the projectiles or by fragments of an Iron Dome interceptor missile, several of which were fired at the incoming fusillade.

Photographs of the scene showed that a wall was pierced by pieces of shrapnel and that a balcony awning was destroyed by the impact.

A home in the southern town of Sderot is hit by shrapnel from a rocket attack launched by terror groups in the Gaza Strip on March 25, 2019. (Meital Adri/Sderot Online)

Shortly after the volley of projectiles were aimed at the south, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement that Egypt had succeeded in brokering the ceasefire between Israel and the terror groups in the Gaza Strip that was to go into effect at 10:00 p.m.

Salama Maroof, the head of the Hamas-run government media office, wrote on Twitter that all government ministries and institutions in the coastal enclave would open as usual on Tuesday.

Shortly after 5:30 p.m., the Israeli military began bombing targets throughout the Gaza Strip, approximately 12 hours after the rocket was fired from the coastal enclave and hit the home northeast of Tel Aviv.

The first Monday night barrage, which targeted communities throughout the Eshkol, Sha’ar Hanegev and Central Negev regions of southern Israel, began roughly three hours into the Israeli bombing campaign.

The attack triggered air raid sirens throughout the region, sending thousands of Israelis scrambling to bomb shelters.

At least three Palestinians were wounded in the Israeli strikes, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. The extent of their injuries was not immediately known.

The Israeli military said its fighter jets and attack helicopters targeted dozens of Hamas sites in the Gaza Strip.

In addition to Haniyeh’s office, which the Hamas leader had long since fled before it was targeted, the military also bombed what it referred to as a “secret headquarters” of Hamas used by its intelligence services.

A ball of fire lights the sky above a building believed to house the offices of Hamas chairmain Ismail Haniyeh, during Israeli strikes on Gaza City hours after a rocket from the Palestinian enclave hit a house and wounded seven Israelis on March 25, 2019. (Mahmud Hams / AFP)

Palestinian media said the building, which was leveled in the Israeli attack, belonged to the al-Multazem insurance company.

The military said it was also targeting a five-story building that was used by the Hamas terror group’s internal security service.

A five-story building in the Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City targeted by IDF aircraft on March 25, 2019, which Israel says was used by the Hamas terror group as an internal security service. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel began its retaliatory strikes around the same time as Netanyahu met US President Donald Trump in Washington. In comments from the White House, Netanyahu said, “Israel is responding forcefully to this wanton aggression.”

The raids began soon after an Egyptian military intelligence delegation left the Strip, where its initial attempts to broker a ceasefire reportedly failed.

With the start of the IDF strikes on Monday evening, cities and towns throughout southern and central Israel opened their public bomb shelters in anticipation of retaliatory attacks from Gaza. Tel Aviv, Beersheba, Petah Tikva, Kiryat Gat, Rishon Lezion and other cities and towns throughout the country all opened their municipal bomb shelters.

Residents of the Israeli communities closer to Gaza were told to remain within close distance of their bomb shelters and other protected spaces.

The early morning rocket attack destroyed the home in the town of Mishmeret, northeast of Tel Aviv, making it the farthest reaching strike from the Strip since the 2014 Gaza war. Two of the people inside were moderately wounded and five others, including two small children, were lightly injured.

Israeli security forces inspect the scene of a house that was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip in the town of Mishmeret in central Israel on March 25, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Following the attack, the IDF and local governments rolled out a number of precautionary measures.

Additional Iron Dome air defense batteries were deployed throughout the country.

The military also sent two additional brigades to the Gaza region and called up approximately 1,000 reservists for air defense and other select units.

The rocket strike, which was attributed to Hamas, represented a significant increase in the level of violence from the coastal enclave, following weeks of heightened tensions and border clashes, as well as recent skirmishes in an Israeli jail between Hamas security prisoners and prison guards.

There are fears in Israel that violence will ramp up this week, with Hamas hoping to draw hundreds of thousands of rioters to the fence at the weekend to mark a year of so-called March of Return protests, which began March 30, 2018.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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