Rockets continue but general says ceasefire expected to hold

Schools canceled throughout the south on Thursday as truce wobbles

Palestinian firefighters try to extinguish a blaze at a burning factory in Gaza after an Israeli missile strike there Thursday morning. (photo credit: Wissam Nassar/Flash90)
Palestinian firefighters try to extinguish a blaze at a burning factory in Gaza after an Israeli missile strike there Thursday morning. (photo credit: Wissam Nassar/Flash90)

A top IDF commander said the quiet in the south is expected to continue, despite the fact Israel’s fragile truce with Gaza has been punctured by volleys of rockets over the last several days.

Sporadic rocket fire on towns across the south continued Thursday. The Iron Dome anti-missile system shot down a Grad missile fired at Beersheba late Thursday morning. Another Grad was fired at the southern town of Netivot earlier in the day, hours after the Israel Air Force struck a rocket launching site in Gaza.

The rocket struck an open area near Netivot, a few meters from a school where classes were taking place. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

Netivot, which is within seven kilometers of the Gaza Strip, has schools equipped with bunkers, as do other towns within the “Gaza envelope.” Most schools in the range of 7-40 kilometers from Gaza were closed Thursday.

A Kassam rocket also landed in the Sdot Hanegev region.

Southern Command Staff head Brig. Gen. Roi Elkovich told Israel Radio it seemed the truce would hold. Earlier ceasefires were also followed by sporadic rocket fire, he said.

The Israel Defense Forces response came after two Grad rockets were shot at Beersheba Wednesday night, breaking the fragile ceasefire that went into effect early Tuesday.

The IDF Spokesman’s Office reported that the airstrikes were successful in hitting their targets. Palestinian sources in the Strip reported that there were no injuries from the Israeli attacks.

Speaking from Seoul, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Iran was behind any Islamic Jihad actions. Islamic Jihad has been the main terrorist group firing rockets into Israel.

Lieberman, who met with South Korean counterpart Kim Sung-hwan, also called on the world to use lessons learned in North Korea, which recently agreed to pull back its nuclear program, on Iran.

School closed across south as quiet broken

Schools are closed in Beersheba, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Malachi and Gan Yavneh on Thursday, following the firing of three rockets at the south from Gaza on Wednesday.

Two rockets were fired at Beersheba. One was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system as it honed in on the Negev’s biggest city, and several local residents were treated for shock. A second rocket fell in an empty area. A third rocket was fired at Ashkelon earlier Wednesday, also landing in open ground, as Palestinian terrorists breached the ceasefire that ended four days of cross-border violence on Tuesday.

Despite the ceasefire, about 40 percent of Netivot students elected to stay home from school on Wednesday. This was largely because of a rocket attack on Tuesday night; the rocket landed on a central parking lot, causing some damage. One person was lightly injured and seven people were treated for shock.

Schools elsewhere across the south had re-opened Wednesday morning, and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar told Army Radio he was pleased students were going back to their lessons. “[We] must return to school and routine life,” he said.

Sa’ar acknowledged that rockets were still being fired and that the government couldn’t promise the cross-border hostility was all over, saying, “We live in a situation where we can’t guarantee a zero chance of being hit by rockets.”

A situation in which, every few months, a million citizens are driven into bomb shelters is unacceptable, Sa’ar added. He said Israel will likely have to carry out a larger operation in the Gaza Strip to “disarm Tehran’s proxies.”

Early Wednesday morning, Israel Air Force jets struck two sites of terror activity in northern Gaza, recording direct hits at both.

That strike came in response to several missiles that were fired into Israel on Tuesday, despite the ceasefire. Four rockets and 10 mortars were fired on the Eshkol region on Tuesday evening, and earlier Tuesday, three rockets fell in the Ashkelon, Sha’ar Hanegev and Eshkol regions. No damage or injuries were reported. A siren was also heard in the Ashkelon region around 10 a.m.

The IDF held a drill Wednesday simulating rocket fire on Israel’s central metropolis. Terrorist organizations in Gaza are believed to possess long-range rockets that can reach Tel Aviv, not utilized in the recent round of attacks.

In total, more than 300 rockets have been fired from Gaza towards Israel in the latest round of violence. The IAF has completed some 20 airstrikes against terrorist rocket launching cells.The Iron Dome missile defense system has shot down some 60 rockets in a little more than 70 attempts.


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