The Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday morning said Palestinian terrorists had launched 104 projectiles from the Gaza Strip amid a daylong flare-up in violence, sparked by the death of a prominent Palestinian Islamic Jihad member while on a hunger strike in an Israeli prison.
Speaking to reporters, IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said the projectiles included rockets, mortars, and shoulder-launched missiles fired at Israeli aircraft over Gaza.
The Iron Dome air defense system intercepted 24 of the projectiles, marking a 90% interception rate of rockets heading for populated areas, Hagari said. Another 48 projectiles landed in open areas in southern Israel, 14 fell short in Gaza, 11 landed in the sea, and another seven had unknown impact sites.
Hagari said the IDF was investigating the circumstances that led to at least two rockets landing in populated areas, including one that hit a construction site in the southern city of Sderot and wounded three foreign nationals, one moderately and two lightly.
However, police have said officers dealt with at least five rocket impact sites in urban areas, some of which landed close to homes, which the IDF did not include in its tally.
“We have something to learn about the [rocket] that hit the construction site,” Hagari said. Last year, the IDF boasted of a 97% interception rate by Iron Dome.
The IDF struck 16 separate targets belonging to Islamic Jihad and Hamas terror groups across the Gaza Strip overnight, Hagari said.
The targets included a Hamas training camp; another base that housed a weapons production site, a concrete production plant, and a training site; a site belonging to the Hamas naval commandos; and a tunnel used by Hamas in southern Gaza.
“All the targets we wanted to strike, we struck,” Hagari said.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said a 58-year-old man, Hashel Mubarak, was killed, and five other civilians were wounded as a result of one of the Israeli strikes near Gaza City.
Israel and the Gaza terror groups agreed to a ceasefire mediated by officials from Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations, early Wednesday morning, according to the Al Jazeera and Reuters news outlets, citing Palestinian sources.
The two sides agreed to the truce that was supposed to go into effect at 4 a.m., according to the reports.
Though at 5:36 a.m., Islamic Jihad launched at least two rockets toward the southern Israeli community of Nir Am, getting the final word. No damage was caused. An Islamic Jihad spokesman later also confirmed the ceasefire in a statement.
The IDF said that after a situational assessment, it had decided that those living in communities bordering the Strip could return to their usual routines.
Still, Hagari warned that the situation could explode at any moment.
“We are in a continuous assessment of the situation. We returned the situation to normal on the home front when we saw this was possible… Everything is open, everything is on the table,” he said.
The ceasefire was announced around 24 hours after the Israel Prison Service announced the death of Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s Khader Adnan after an 86-day hunger strike.
Adnan had been arrested and indicted on terror charges and was in detention while awaiting trial.
Shortly after Adnan’s death was announced, four rockets were fired from Gaza, causing no injuries. In response, IDF tanks struck a Hamas observation post near the border.
The so-called “Joint Operations Room” of various Palestinian terror factions in the Gaza Strip took responsibility for the rocket attacks. In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, the collective, which includes both the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups, said the attacks came as a response to Adnan’s death.
Israel had readied for a potential escalation after Adnan died. Hagari said the IDF was notified by the Israel Prison Service of Adnan’s situation shortly before 3 a.m.
“We were coordinated in an orderly manner with the IPS and all the information was clear,” he said.
Adnan’s latest detention was his 10th stint in the Israeli prison system. Israeli officials said he had been detained 13 times overall. He had previously gone on hunger strikes four times to protest his detentions.
Adnan had long been accused of being a spokesperson for Islamic Jihad, and had been arrested several times in recent years and served several prison sentences in connection with his activities for the group.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government was criticized following the reports of the ceasefire.
“I am in a state of embarrassment and do not understand my government that adopts a policy of granting immunity to terrorists and burying its head in the sand. Netanyahu is making a serious mistake,” said Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi to Radio 103FM.
The government had come under intense pressure to respond forcefully to the rocket barrages, with much of the pressure coming from within Netanyahu’s own coalition. The right-wing bloc’s approval rates have declined since it returned to power four months ago promising to restore security, only to be met with a sustained series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks and security tensions on other fronts as well.
Israel and Gaza terror groups have repeatedly waged brief, back-and-forth battles across the border in recent years, without effecting significant changes on the ground. The exchanges vary in duration and intensity, and the most recent took place last month.