Rocket fire continues despite reports of progress toward ceasefire
Terror groups: Will fight until Israel agrees to our demands

Rocket fire continues despite reports of progress toward ceasefire

Western diplomat says Israel and Gaza terror groups close to agreement; Hamas and PIJ officials say they’ll hold fire if Israel does

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

Israelis stand outside their building after it was hit by a rocket fired from Gaza in the costal city of Ashkelon, Israel, Sunday, May 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
Israelis stand outside their building after it was hit by a rocket fired from Gaza in the costal city of Ashkelon, Israel, Sunday, May 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

As Palestinian terror groups continued to fire rockets into Israel late Sunday night and early Monday morning, Hebrew and Arabic media reported that mediators from Egypt and the European Union were on the verge of brokering a ceasefire between Israel and terror groups in the coastal enclave.

The reports cited a Western diplomat, who said the nascent agreement would go into effect around midnight on Sunday-Monday. UN Middle East Envoy Nikolay Mladenov was said to be mediating the talks along with Egyptian intelligence officials.

For its part, Israel did not comment on the developing deal, but has refrained from doing so in the past, even denying reported ceasefires, which went on to hold for days, weeks and or months at a time.

Nonethless, the terror groups continued to fire rockets into Israel during the night and the Iron Dome system intercepted several rockets in the Ashkelon region. Rocket warning sirens also blared in communities along the Gaza border. There were no immediate reports of injuries from this salvo and the IDF said it was investigating if any projectiles landed in in Israeli territory.

Rockets are launched from Gaza Strip to Israel, Sunday, May 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Shortly after midnight, the Gaza terror groups said the fighting would continue until Israel gives in to their demands and acknowledges the understandings reached.

“The battle will not end until the occupation responds affirmatively to our people’s demands,” the Joint Command Center of Armed Palestinian factions in Gaza said in a statement in the early hours of Monday.

“We will not allow the settlers” — a reference to all Israelis — “to leave their shelters as long as the enemy’s leadership denies its understandings with the resistance,” it said.

Earlier Sunday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said that restoring calm in and around the Gaza Strip would be possible if Israel agreed to stop all retaliatory strikes in the Palestinian enclave.

Smoke billows from a targeted neighborhood in Gaza City during an Israeli airstrike on the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave on May 5, 2019. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

A senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad official said the group would also be willing to hold its fire if Israel agreed to its “obligations” — an apparent reference to pledges from Jerusalem last month to ease restrictions around the Gaza Strip and allow $30 million in Qatari aid into the coastal enclave.

Late on Sunday night, the Israeli military said it bombed some 40 “terror targets” in the Gaza Strip in its latest round of airstrikes, bringing the IDF’s total number of raids up to 320 in the past two days. The military said it targeted “observation headquarters, underground bunkers, weapons caches, military facilities, launchpads, observation posts and more” in its most recent air raids.

The army said it targeted sites connected to both the Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza, and the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Palestinian medical officials reported 29 dead since Friday, including at least 11 terrorists, The Times of Israel confirmed.

The high-level security cabinet huddled for five hours on Sunday over the violence that killed four Israeli civilians in a single day, the deadliest casualty rate for Israel since the 2014 Gaza war.

Following the meeting, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a brief statement saying that the army has been instructed “to continue the strikes and prepare for them to continue.”

Palestinians carry an injured boy outside a hospital in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza strip on May 5, 2019. (ANAS BABA / AFP)

The statement added that the government’s “main consideration is the security of the state and its citizens.” This appeared to refer to claims that Israel might cave to the demands of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in order to prevent the fight from continuing into Israel’s Memorial and Independence Days later this week and the international Eurovision Song Contest planned for May 14-18 in Tel Aviv.

As of late Sunday evening, four people in Israel were killed and at least 10 injured by shrapnel from rockets, missiles and mortar shells from the Gaza Strip, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.

Fifty-eight year-old father of four Moshe Agadi was the first fatality after being rushed to Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center with shrapnel wounds he sustained when the rocket hit his home in the city at around 2:30 a.m. Sunday.

In a barrage aimed at the same southern city later in the day, a rocket directly hit a factory, killing a Zaid al-Hamamdeh, a 47-year-old father of seven, and injuring two others.

A short while later, a third man, Moshe Feder, 60, was fatally wounded when an anti-tank guided missile slammed into his car as he was driving along the Route 34 highway near the community of Kibbutz Erez, just north of the Gaza border. He sustained a serious shrapnel wound to the leg, causing significant blood loss. Feder was pronounced dead at Barzilai’s Medical Center after CPR efforts failed. The Hamas terror group claimed responsibility for the attack.

On Sunday evening, a fourth man was killed after being struck by rocket shrapnel while running for cover in the southern city of Ashdod, medics said. Pinchas Menachem Prezuazman, 21, was survived by his wife and son. He was laid to rest in Jerusalem.

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