Soldiers stand next to an Iron Dome battery..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A 72-hour Egyptian cease-fire proposal accepted by both Israel and Hamas went into effect Tuesday at 8:00 a.m. Despite the impending truce, Hamas fired a salvo of rockets at communities throughout Israel just minutes before the cease-fire came into effect.
Sirens went off in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Sdot HaNegev, Kiryat Malachi, Rehovot, Rishon Lezion, Gedera, Lod, Ramle, and in Ma'ale Adumim which is east of Jerusalem as 17 rockets were fired from Gaza. Six of those rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome.
One rocket was confirmed intercepted over Ashdod. Four more were intercepted over Kiryat Malachi while one fell in an open area outside of the community. Another rocket landed in a community in the Sdot Hanegev Regional Council causing some minor damage but no injuries were reported.
Shrapnel landed in the greater Jerusalem area indicating an Iron Dome interception over the area.
According to media reports, the IDF responded with artillery fire, but the guns fell silent just before the cease-fire came into effect at 8 a.m. Hamas claimed responsibility for the Tuesday morning rocket fire.
In advance of the truce, Ben Gurion Airport, Israel's main international airport, halted all arriving and departing flights between 7:00 a.m. and 8:15 a.m.
19 flights were delayed due to the decision. No rockets were fired towards Ben Gurion.
Israeli ground forces began to completely withdraw from the Gaza Strip
ahead of the cease-fire, a military spokesman said. Reserves have not been released from service and the army said it is prepared to retaliate to any move by Hamas to break the truce.
"The Israel Defense Forces
will be redeployed in defensive positions outside the Gaza Strip
and we will maintain those defensive positions," Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner
said. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement early Tuesday morning calling for both parties to respect the terms of the truce. He called on both sides to meet in Cairo and begin negotiations for a long-term cease-fire agreement "as soon as possible."
It was not immediately clear when an Israeli delegation would head to Cairo for indirect talks on a long-term agreement.
Senior Israeli diplomatic officials said Israel was preparing for the possibility that Hamas would violate the cease-fire, as it has done in the past, and also cautioned the Israeli public to continue to be vigilant as Hamas could try to carry out a major attack for a final “victory picture” before the cease-fire goes into effect.
The officials said that if the cease-fire was honored there would be no reason for a continued IDF presence inside the Gaza Strip.
They stressed that the ceasefire was unconditional and pointed out that its acceptance came after Israel finished destroying the terror tunnels.
Earlier on Monday, Azzam al-Ahmed, head of the Palestinian delegation to the Cairo discussions on a cease-fire formula, confirmed that a ceasefire would go into effect Tuesday morning. Al-Ahmed, a senior Fatah official, said the cease-fire would be for 72-hours, during which Israel and the Palestinian factions would hold indirect talks in Cairo about consolidating the truce.
Other Palestinian and Egyptian sources had claimed on Monday night that a cease-fire agreement would go into effect at 8 a.m. on Tuesday.
The Palestinian delegation presented their demands to the Egyptians late on Sunday. The demands called for an immediate cease-fire and a lifting of the siege on the Gaza Strip, in addition to the reopening of all border crossings. They also called for international assurances that Israel would refrain from launching military attacks, and for UN assistance in rebuilding the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinians also demanded an airport and seaport in addition to free passage between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Israeli officials dismissed this list of demands in recent days as “completely unrealistic.”
A 72-hour cease-fire brokered last week by US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ended 90 minutes after it began, with the killing of three soldiers in Rafah.Herb Keinon and Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.