Lull in rocket barrage as 'Hamas reports ceasefire'

Rocket firing appears to come to a halt; Hamas TV reports Israel informed Egypt it would stop IAF strikes in Gaza, according to Israeli media.

March 12, 2012 01:32
2 minute read.
Rocket-damaged school in Beersheba [file]

Rocket-damaged school in Beersheba 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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There was a lull in the consistent barrage of rockets that had been fired from Gaza into Southern Israel over the past three days late Sunday night, as Hamas announced on television that Israel had informed Egypt it would stop IAF strikes in Gaza at midnight, according to Israel Radio.

Palestinian terrorists have fired over 160 rockets into Israeli territory since the beginning of the escalation Friday.

The announcement would mark the first ceasefire since the IAF foiled a major terror attack, killing Zuhair Qaisi in a bombing on Friday.

Until then, terrorists in Gaza fired rockets into Israeli territory for the third straight night, while the Iron Dome defense system continued to intercept rockets fired at the South's larger cities.

At least four rockets were fired towards Ashkelon Sunday evening. The Iron Dome defense battery deployed near the city intercepted one rocket, while the other three landed near the city in open fields. No damages or injuries were caused in the attacks.

Earlier, a rocket fired towards Ofakim - a small city about halfway between Beersheba and the Gaza Strip - also landed in an open area causing no damage or injuries.

At least five rockets landed in the Eshkol Regional Council, which abuts the Gaza Strip and includes a number of small communities. The rockets landed in open fields. No casualties resulted from those attacks.

The Home Front command along with the heads of a number of local authorities in Israel’s south gave the order on Sunday night to cancel school in all towns and cities located between 7km to 40km from the Gaza Strip for the second day in a row.

The ban applies to the cities of Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beersheba, Netivot, Sderot, Kiryat Malachi, Gadera, Rahat, Yavneh, Lakiyeh, and the Gan Yavneh Regional Council.

Schools in the western Negev that are closer than 7km to the Gaza Strip will hold class as usual, as they have the necessary reinforcement to protect against the incoming rockets, the Home Front Command said Saturday.

Sapir College in Sderet will stay open for classes on Monday despite the ongoing rocket attacks threatening southern Israel.

A rocket launched from the Gaza Strip hit a school in Beersheba on Sunday, exploding in its courtyard and damaging its outer walls. A second rocket slammed into the middle of a residential neighborhood in the city, damaging 15 homes and causing several residents to suffer shock.

smoke trails a rocket (Reuters)

"This is the first strike inside a city since the beginning of the current escalation," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said of the attack.

Magen David Adom paramedics were on the scene, treating Beersheba residents for trauma and shock.

On Sunday, 40 rockets were fired into Israel and 14 were intercepted by the Iron Dome counter rocket defense system. A fourth battery will be deployed in the coming weeks. IDF sources said that around 160 rockets have been fired into Israel since the beginning of the violence on Friday afternoon.

Yaakov Katz, Ben Hartman and Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.

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