Rocket fired from Gaza as Israel warns raids could resume, deploys more troops

Senior Israeli official says ‘no ceasefire reached’ with Hamas, despite group’s claims to the contrary and relative calm throughout the day

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

IDF tanks stationed near the Israeli Gaza border on March 26, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
IDF tanks stationed near the Israeli Gaza border on March 26, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel on Tuesday night warned it was prepared to resume strikes on the Gaza Strip, as additional soldiers were deployed to the border region following a major exchange of fire between the army and Palestinian terror groups in the coastal territory the day before.

Less than an hour after the threats of further Israeli attacks in the Strip, a rocket was fired at the Eshkol region of southern Israel, triggering air raid sirens in the area and sending thousands of residents to bomb shelters.

The projectile apparently landed in an open field, causing neither injury nor damage, an Eshkol spokesperson said.

The resumption of tensions came after a day that saw an uneasy calm over the border region, with the military announcing Tuesday evening it was removing all restrictions on communities in southern Israel beginning the next day, allowing students to return to schools that had been shuttered and businesses to reopen as usual.

The violence began early Monday with a rocket fired at a home in central Israel. On Monday night, following a large exchange of fire, Gaza’s Hamas rulers announced a ceasefire and no further projectiles were launched at Israel since early Tuesday morning.

However, a senior Israeli government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, denied that a truce had been reached and threatened additional attacks on Hamas targets in the Strip.

“There is no ceasefire agreement. The fighting may resume at any moment,” the official said.

Fire and smoke around buildings in Gaza City during reported Israeli strikes on March 25, 2019. (Mahmud Hams / AFP)

At the same time, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi ordered additional reinforcements to the Gaza border region following consultations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as defense minister, and other top security officials.

The deployment included an additional artillery battalion and the command unit of an infantry brigade. Kohavi also ordered the call-up of more reservists and canceled plans for soldiers currently stationed in the Gaza Strip to move to other regions in Israel, the army said.

The Israeli military had already deployed two additional brigades to the Gaza border region on Monday and called up approximately 1,000 reservists, for air defense and other select units.

Early Monday, a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck a home in a farming community in central Israel and wounded seven people, leading Israel to launch dozens of retaliatory raids on the enclave.

Israeli warplanes carried out dozens of bombing runs and Gazans fired some 60 projectiles at southern Israel, with the violence only waning before dawn Tuesday.

Israeli security forces inspect the scene of a house that was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip in the town of Mishmeret in central Israel on March 25, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Though Israelis in the south began returning to their routines on Tuesday, there were a number of minor incidents of violence during the afternoon.

Several Palestinians crossed into Israel from the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday and set fire to an unmanned military post along the border before slipping back into the coastal enclave, the army said.

Separately, an incendiary balloon launched from Gaza sparked a fire in a field in the Eshkol Regional Council. Security forces operating in the area extinguished the blaze.

Additionally, three airborne explosive devices flown from Gaza detonated over the nearby Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council.

There were no reports of injuries.

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