Terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket at southern Israel on Thursday evening, hours after the Israeli military removed all safety restrictions on towns near the Gaza border, which had nominally marked an end to the previous two days of intense fighting.
Soldiers operating the Iron Dome air defense system intercepted the incoming rocket. No injuries or damage were reported.
Israeli military and political officials held emergency meetings following the rocket launch at 5:30 p.m. to determine how to proceed with the shaky ceasefire agreement that was announced on Thursday morning.
This was the second violation of the truce by Palestinian terrorists, who also fired five rockets at southern Israel earlier in the day.
Israeli leaders have warned they would not hesitate to return to battle footing.
At 3:20 p.m., the Israel Defense Forces said schools and businesses were allowed to reopen and limits on the sizes of gatherings were removed in the Gaza periphery and nearby Lachish region. The restrictions had been removed from the rest of southern and central Israel earlier in the day but briefly remained in place in the most hard-hit areas.
In addition, Israel reopened all land crossings for the Gaza Strip and resumed allowing Palestinian fisherman to work up to 15 nautical miles from the shore, following a security assessment, an Israeli official said Thursday.
Touring an Iron Dome command center before the late afternoon ceasefire breach, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the goals of the operation in Gaza “were achieved in full.”
He said Israel had sent a deterrent message to “our enemies,” to the effect that “We can get to all of them, even in their beds. I hope they have learned,” he said, referring to Israel’s pinpoint strike on Baha Abu al-Ata, a commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group’s armed wing, early Tuesday morning, touching off the fighting.
Over the course of some 48 hours, from predawn Tuesday to Thursday morning, over 450 rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip in response to the assassination of Abu al-Ata, who Israel said was the “prime instigator” of terrorism from Gaza over the past year.
Most of the rockets either landed in open fields or were intercepted by Israeli air defenses. Some struck homes, businesses and streets, causing a handful of light to moderate injuries and significant property damage. Dozens of people were also wounded as they fell running to bomb shelters.
In response to the attacks, the Israeli military conducted dozens of strikes on Islamic Jihad bases and weapons facilities, as well as rocket-launching teams throughout the Strip, killing 25 terrorists, according to the IDF.
Nine other Palestinians were killed in Israeli strikes, including a Palestinian father Mahmoud Ayad, 54, and his two sons — Islam, 7, and Amir, 24 — who were killed in an Israeli airstrike in what appeared to be a case of mistaken identity, as residents of the Gaza Strip denied that they were involved with terrorist activities. In addition, two women and four children, who were family members of two senior PIJ operatives, were killed in Israeli strikes that targeted the two men.
A ceasefire agreement was first announced on Thursday morning, but was shattered hours later as five rockets were fired at Israel. There were no reports of damage or injuries in the Thursday morning bombardment, which was launched at Netivot and Gaza-area communities.
Aside from that bombardment, the fragile truce appeared to hold, with no further violations of the armistice recorded.
Islamic Jihad spokesman Musab al-Berim confirmed the truce earlier on Thursday, telling reporters in Gaza the Egyptian-brokered deal went into effect at 5:30 a.m. Al-Berim said the ceasefire was based on a list of demands presented by his group late Wednesday, including a halt to Israeli targeted killings of the group’s leaders.
According to an Egyptian official, the agreement stipulates that Palestinian factions must ensure a return to calm in Gaza and “maintain peace” during demonstrations, while Israel must stop hostilities and “ensure a ceasefire” during demonstrations by Palestinians.
An IDF spokesman said the latest flareup of violence in Gaza, in which two Islamic Jihad commanders were killed and its terror group’s infrastructure was targeted, was dubbed Operation Black Belt.
BREAKING: Ceasefire broken. Multiple rockets fired now from Gaza City. pic.twitter.com/6tImhMYAcH
— Trey Yingst (@TreyYingst) November 14, 2019
In a press briefing, a spokesperson for the Israeli military said that around 450 rockets had been launched toward Israel during the recent escalation, of which 60 percent landed in open fields and 90% of the remainder were intercepted.
In a series of tweets, Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee said the Israeli military swiftly achieved its objectives in the fight, having dealt a “severe blow” to the terror group’s weapon capabilities.
During the two-day round of fighting, Adraee said, Israeli airstrikes had argeted “terrorist infrastructure” above and below ground as well as Islamic Jihad naval positions.
The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said 34 Palestinians were killed in the Israeli strikes, including eight Palestinians from a single family who were killed in an Israeli airstrike at their house in Deir al-Balah town, central Gaza. Israel said Rasmi Abu Malhous, an Islamic Jihad terrorist reportedly at the of head its rocket unit, was killed in the overnight strike on the Gaza Strip in which the family members were killed.
Palestinian health officials have said 19 of those killed were members of terror groups, mostly the Islamic Jihad, an Iran-backed terrorist group sworn to Israel’s destruction.
Israel said at least 25 were terrorists who were actively taking part in hostilities.
After the ceasefire appeared to take effect Thursday morning, the IDF defended its strikes on private homes in Gaza despite Palestinian reports of civilian deaths, including women and children.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told reporters that Islamic Jihad commanders used their homes to store weapons, making them legitimate targets. Conricus said he didn’t have any information about the eight family members killed by the alleged Israeli strike.
“All of our operations were measured, proportionate and focused only on military assets belonging to the Islamic Jihad,” he said.
Foreign Minister Israel Katz said Israel’s policy of targeted killings had “proved itself” and that it would continue, despite word of the ceasefire.
“Everyone who was a top military official, who was set to carry out and was involved in terror or rocket firing against Israel, was eliminated,” he told Israeli Army Radio. “And we intend to continue with this.”
Gaza’s ruling Hamas terror group, which is much larger and more powerful than Islamic Jihad, stayed out of the latest escalation.