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Diplomacy & Politics
YAAKOV LAPPIN, JPOST.COM STAFF \
Sporadic rocket fire from Gaza continues to hit South despite 'ceasefire'
Islamic Jihad underground rocket launcher.
Sporadic rocket fire from the Gaza Strip fell in southern Israel on Thursday evening hours after the Islamic Jihad claimed that Egypt had brokered a ceasefire to end two days of hostilities that has seen nearly 70 rockets fall in the South.A rocket fell in the Ashkelon Coast Council area around 5 p.m. Wednesday and just before 8 p.m. three rockets fell in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council area. No injuries or damage were reported in the attacks.After the rockets fell in Sha'ar Hanegev, the Iron Dome rocket defense system intercepted a rocket headed for the Southern town of Netivot.Later in the evening another 2 rockets fell, one in Sderot in an open area of the city and another in the Eshkol Region, in an open area. No damages or injury were reported in that attacks. In total, 14 rockets fell on the western Negev as of midnight Thursday local time, according to Israel Radio.Israel has denied that an official ceasefire is in effect, and has maintained that it will respond forcefully to rocket fire. Late Thursday, IAF aircraft hit seven targets in the Gaza Strip in a bid to quell the rocket fire.Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said earlier Thursday that "quiet would be met with quiet" but he added "if provocations continue, we will know how to pound whoever needs to be pounded." "We do not seek an escalation but we will not resign ourselves to any provocation from the organizations in Gaza," Ya'alon said. The defense minister sent "a message of strength" to the residents of southern Israel who faced a barrage of rocket fire over the past days asking them to continue their routine, saying that the IDF would continue to defend them. Earlier in the day it appeared that Egyptian efforts to broker a ceasefire may have succeeded with an Islamic Jihad official saying that a truce had been reached."Following intensive Egyptian contacts and efforts, the agreement for calm has been restored in accordance with understandings reached in 2012 in Cairo," Islamic Jihad official Khaled al-Batsh wrote on Facebook, referring to a truce that ended an eight-day Gaza war two years ago.Batsh said Islamic Jihad, a militant group that began launching rockets into Israel on Wednesday after Israeli soldiers killed three of its fighters a day earlier, would hold its fire as long as Israel did the same.The news came shortly after the Israel Air Force struck seven terror targets in the southern Gaza Strip in response to two rockets fired earlier in the day.Two rockets fired on Thursday morning by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza landed in open territory near Ashkelon and Ashdod, following several hours of tense quiet after Wednesday night's barrage of heavy fire.
Classes in South to resume as scheduled FridaySchools in the Negev Regional Council opened as usual Thursday morning. However by mid-day Gan Yavne municipality, without receiving any official instructions from Home Front Command, announced the closure of middle schools and high schools and sent students home. Parents were told they could pick up their kids early from elementary schools, while preschools and kindergartens stayed open throughout the day.The Ashdod municipality also announced the closure of "un-protected schools" and called on parents to pick up their children. In Ashkelon, the municipality did not announce any school closures but many parents decided to take their children home early.A security source confirmed on Thursday that schools are expected to remain open on Friday as normal, adding that there was no indication that this evaluation would change.
Lidar Grave Lazi, Yasser Okbi and Reuters contributed to this report.
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