The Hamas terrorist organization announced Saturday that it had agreed to a ceasefire with Israel following talks with Egypt and other international bodies, after Palestinians fired more than 100 rockets into Israel over the weekend and Israel carried out dozens of air strikes.
“The regional and international mediation has led to an end of the current escalation between the resistance and the occupation forces,” Hamas said.
“Facts on the ground will determine our continued response,” a senior Israeli defense official said following the reports.
Hamas claimed the rocket firings were a response to Israeli strikes, adding that it would cease firing projectiles if the Jewish state stopped attacking targets in the Strip.
Israel launched the first strikes early Saturday, after an IDF officer was moderately injured by a grenade thrown at him during a violent riot along the Gaza border on Friday.
A spokesperson for the Islamic Jihad terrorist group also said that his group would maintain a ceasefire if Israeli strikes on Gaza came to a halt, according to the Ynet news site.
Hadashot TV news reported earlier Saturday evening that while Hamas leaders had told Egyptian mediators that they would keep firing rockets into Israel until the IDF stopped its military actions, and bragged about the rocket fire, the Egyptians told Hamas that Israel was ready for an escalation of the conflict if necessary, and that therefore if Hamas wanted the exchanges to stop, it would have to halt first.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Saturday that Israel would step up its strikes on Gaza until the Palestinian terror groups halt all violence coming out of the coastal enclave.
Netanyahu said that after consultations with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and the IDF chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot it was decided to take “powerful action against Hamas terror.”
“The IDF hit Hamas with the harshest blow since Operation Protective Edge and we will intensify our reaction as much as necessary,” Netanyahu said.
The Walla news site quoted a senior defense official as saying that Liberman had been in talks during the day with Nikolay Mladinov, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.
Mladinov reportedly held talks with several Israeli and Egyptian officials in an attempt to restore calm to the region.
According to Walla, Liberman told Mladinov that Israel’s main demand was the halt of the fire kites and balloons.
Over the last few months, Palestinians in Gaza have flown thousands of kites and balloons attached to incendiary devices that have set off hundreds of fires in farm lands and nature reserves along the border with Gaza, destroying tens of thousands of acres.
On Saturday evening, Palestinians in Gaza fired a salvo of rockets at the border town of Sderot, with two of the rockets hitting a home and a synagogue. Three Israelis were moderately wounded.
The rocket that injured them landed on the roof of a home in the town. It hit a reinforced bomb shelter in the building, limiting the damage. The second rocket hit a synagogue that was empty at the time.
Several other rockets were intercepted by Iron Dome.
Over the weekend, Palestinians fired dozens of rockets into Israel and the IDF attacked more than 40 targets in the Strip, in the most extensive daytime assault since 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Health Ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza reported that two teenagers, aged 15 and 16, were killed in an IDF strike Saturday on a structure which the Israeli army said was situated over an attack tunnel in Gaza.
Fourteen people have been wounded across Gaza, the Hamas-run health ministry said.
Palestinian sources reported that the IDF conducted several more strikes in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday evening.
During the night, Palestinians fired more than 30 projectiles into Israel and kept up the attacks on Saturday, firing a further 60 rockets and mortar shells. Residents of Israeli border communities spent the night in bomb shelters and were cautioned to remain close to the shelters during the day.
After midnight Friday-Saturday, the Israel Defense Forces hit an attack tunnel and Hamas training bases in Gaza in response to the moderate wounding of an IDF officer by a hand-grenade thrown during a border riot on Friday.
The IDF said Iron Dome intercepted 20 projectiles in total that were headed for residential areas. Since 3 p.m. on Saturday, 100 rockets were fired at Israel, and 73 landed in open areas, the army said.
Hamas on Saturday said the barrage of rockets and mortar shells into Israeli territory overnight was fired by the “resistance” to “stop Israeli escalation.”
The spokesman for the terrorist group, Fawzi Barhoum, also said the projectiles were an “immediate response” that was meant to “deliver the message” to Israel.
The army said it held Hamas responsible for all violence emanating from Gaza, which the terror group has ruled since 2007.