7 projectiles fired after 'cease-fire' came into effect

Palestinians fire 5 mortar shells into Eshkol region, 2 rockets at Ashkelon, Eshkol areas; no injuries or damages; Vilna'i: Direction is toward calm; Palestinian media reports 3 injured in Gaza by IDF at funeral.

By REUTERS, JPOST.COM STAFF
March 13, 2012 13:33
3 minute read.
Rockets fired from Gaza

Rockets from Gaza 370(r). (photo credit: Nikola Solic / Reuters)

 
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Palestinian terrorists fired five mortar shells and two rockets at southern Israel on Tuesday, after a reported Egyptian-brokered cease-fire between terrorist factions in the Gaza Strip and Israel came into effect.

Five mortar shells were fired from Gaza into the Eshkol Regional Council, some of which landed in a kibbutz. Two Kassam rockets were fired earlier Tuesday: one into the Ashkelon Coast Regional Council and another into the Eshkol Regional Council. No injuries were reported and no damage was caused in the attacks.

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Also on Tuesday, Palestinian media reported that the IDF shot and injured  three Palestinians that approached the Gaza security fence, during a funeral procession for two terrorists that were killed in an IAF strike a day earlier. The funeral was for Islamic Jihad members Bassam al-Ejla and Mohammed Daher.

The IDF said that some fifty Palestinians came close to the security fence, and that they fired in order to distance them. 

An Egyptian security official told Reuters on Tuesday that both sides had "agreed to end the current operations," with Israel giving an unusual undertaking to "stop assassinations," and an overall agreement "to begin a comprehensive and mutual calm."

The agreement was set to take effect at 1 a.m.

"There is an understanding," Homeland Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i told Army Radio Tuesday morning. "At the moment the direction is toward calm and it appears, unless there are last minute developments, that this round is now behind us."

Also Tuesday morning, an Islamic Jihad spokesman said the group would respect the quiet as long as Israel stopped assassinations of terrorist leaders, saying it would respond if more assassinations take place.

Islamic Jihad escalated its rocket fire into Israel on Monday, striking as far north as Gedera as Egyptian diplomats worked to broker a cease-fire between the Palestinian terrorist group and Israel.

High-ranking IDF officers were skeptical earlier in the day that the mediation efforts would succeed and said that plans were in place to escalate Israel’s ongoing military operations, including the possible launching of a ground offensive into the Gaza Strip if the rocket fire continued.

“A lot depends on Hamas and Islamic Jihad but we are prepared for all scenarios,” a top officer in the Southern Command said Monday night.

Rocket ranges from Gaza

On Monday, nearly 50 rockets pounded Israel including several that landed in Beersheba and Ashdod despite Iron Dome rocket-defense batteries deployed nearby. The system succeeded in intercepting 11 rockets out of 18 throughout the day.

In total, over 200 rockets were been fired into Israel since hostilities began on Friday, including 50 with ranges of over 20 kilometers. Some of the rockets were manufactured domestically in the Gaza Strip.

A senior IDF intelligence officer said that Islamic Jihad was currently focused on “saving face” and creating a “victory image” with which it will be able to claim that it defeated the IDF.

In reality, the officer said, Islamic Jihad has suffered heavy losses throughout the four days of fighting, including over 20 dead operatives and extensive damage to its terrorist infrastructure.

The officer said that Iran was actively encouraging Islamic Jihad to continue firing rockets into Israel. According to the officer, Iran was concerned that if Islamic Jihad stopped now, it would appear weak and bruised for failing to exact a heavy price from Israel during the current round. As a result, the terrorist group was under orders to continue attacking.

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The current round of violence began on Friday afternoon after Israel assassinated the leader of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) in the Gaza Strip who the IDF said was plotting an attack against Israel along the Egyptian border.

The IDF said that 25 Palestinians, including three civilians, were killed in the fighting since Friday. One of the dead was a 15-year-old youth. Gaza medical officials said that another 74 have been wounded.

Yaakov Katz and Ben Hartman contributed to this report.

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