Quiet night indicates fragile ceasefire holding

Life in south slowly returns to normal after two days of rockets from Gaza

As a reported ceasefire appears to take hold, IDF Home Front Command says schools, businesses to reopen Wednesday in communities near Gaza

Officials assess the damage to a house after it was hit by a rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists from the Gaza Strip, in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, Israel, November 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Officials assess the damage to a house after it was hit by a rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists from the Gaza Strip, in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, Israel, November 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Life in Israeli communities and towns near Gaza slowly returned to normal on Wednesday after a quiet night signaled that a tentative reported ceasefire was holding following two days of intense rocket attacks from the Hamas-ruled Strip.

Schools, higher education institutes and businesses were to reopen and farmers could again work their fields, many of them adjacent to Gaza. Train services south of Ashkelon also resumed.

There were no reports of rocket fire into Israel, or of Israeli strikes on Gaza, since Tuesday afternoon, when the reported ceasefire went into effect. Palestinians said the truce was brokered by Egypt.

Israel had still not confirmed the existence of a ceasefire, but the IDF Home Front Command on Tuesday night removed all restrictions on residents of southern Israel declaring a “return to normalcy.”

Nevertheless, the IDF still kept reinforcements in place surrounding Gaza.

An IDF soldier jumps off a tank near the Israel-Gaza border, Tuesday, November 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

The UN Security Council met late Tuesday in New York, but no decisions were taken, with the Palestinian blaming the US for blocking any condemnation of Israel.

Kuwait, which represents Arab countries at the council, and Bolivia requested the meeting following the worst flareup in Gaza since the 2014 war between Hamas and Israel.

Addressing reporters after the 50-minute meeting, Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour said the council was “paralyzed” and had “failed to shoulder its responsibility” to take action to end the violence.

“There is one country that is not allowing discussion at the council,” Mansour told reporters, in a reference to the United States, which has steadfastly supported Israel under US President Donald Trump.

There was no statement from the council on the crisis. Such statements are agreed by consensus by all 15 council members.

The calm was not welcomed by all, with many in Israel demanding that the government do more to end the rocket threat from Hamas.

In a statement to residents, the head of the Eshkol regional council Gadi Yarkoni said: “We’ve had a difficult two days. Two days which are a continuation of life in the shadow of terrorism and a pendulum swinging between emergency and normalcy for eight months straight.”

He said he expected Israeli leaders and the army to “give us true peace and true calm” which would allow the communities to thrive.

“We cannot accept the continued hopeless reality of life under the threat of terrorism that includes fires, balloons and rockets.”

Palestinians walk amidst rubble of a building that was destroyed in an Israeli air strike in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on November 13, 2018. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Earlier hundreds of people demonstrated at the entrance to the town of Sderot over Israel’s reported agreement for a ceasefire with Gaza’s Hamas terrorist rulers, after a 25-hour period that saw over 460 rockets fired at Israeli communities near the Palestinian enclave.

Protesters blocked roads and burning tires, with some chanting, “Bibi go home,” using a nickname for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Confrontations were reported between protesters and policemen.

According to Hadashot TV news, some southern residents planned further demonstrations and road blockages in Tel Aviv on Wednesday to protest the truce.

Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay expressed support for the protesters, saying it was a “justified” response to the government “forsaking” them.

He said the government had failed the south by “neglecting” the issue of Gaza since the 2014 war. “This is not the time for another fragile truce,” he said. “This is the time for a true diplomatic initiative in Gaza, that will lean on the recommendations of the security establishment.”

The scene inside an Ashkelon apartment where a man was killed by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip which hit the building, November 13, 2018. (Times of Israel)

Hamas and other Gaza terror groups said Tuesday they had accepted an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire with Israel. Terms of the deal were not immediately known, and there was no immediate comment from Israel. But a senior Israeli diplomatic official appeared to confirm the reported armistice.

“Israel maintains its right to act. Requests from Hamas for a ceasefire came through four different mediators. Israel responded that the events on the ground will decide [if a ceasefire will go into effect],” the official said, on condition of anonymity.

According to the military, over 460 rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel over the course of 25 hours on Monday and Tuesday. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted over 100 of them. Most of the rest landed in open fields, but dozens landed inside Israeli cities and towns, killing one person, injuring dozens more, and causing significant property damage.

In response to the rocket and mortar attacks, the Israeli military said it targeted approximately 160 sites in the Gaza Strip connected to the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups, including four facilities that the army designated as “key strategic assets.”

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