Gaza rocket fire lets up after 4 early morning launches

Islamic Jihad reportedly says it will respect a cease fire; 2 rockets intercepted in latest volley; IDF strikes 6 sites in Gaza, 9 killed.

Police officiers remove the remains of a Grad rocket 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen)
Police officiers remove the remains of a Grad rocket 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen)
An Egyptian-brokered cease fire that was supposed to have taken effect at 6 a.m. Sunday morning appeared to have returned calm to southern Israel and the Gaza Strip later in the morning. Islamic Jihad, which has taken responsibility for the majority of some 39 rockets fired at Israel from the Strip in the past 24 hours, said late Sunday morning that it would honor the agreement, Israel Radio reported, although it said it reserved the right to respond to any Israeli attacks.Following the 6 a.m. deadline for an earlier cease fire attempt, four rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Two of the rockets exploded in open areas causing no damage and two were intercepted by the Iron Dome rocket defense system. The last rocket was fired at 6:40 a.m, the IDF Spokesman's Office said.
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Ami Moshe, 56, was killed by shrapnel from a Grad rocket in Ashdod that struck him while he was in his vehicle Saturday night. Four others were wounded over the weekend in the barrage of rocket and mortar fire.
Responding to the rocket fire, the IAF struck six targets in the Gaza Strip on Saturday night. In the northern Gaza Strip it hit a terror tunnel and three rocket launch sites, and in the southern Strip it attacked two centers of terrorist activity. Nine Palestinian terrorists were killed in the strikes.
"The IDF will not hesitate to act decisively and forcefully against anyone who uses terror against the citizens of Israel, until quiet returns to area. Hamas is a terrorist organization and bears the responsibility," anot;250" />
Some 200,000 school children will stay at home as classes in Ashdod, Beersheba and Kiryat Malachi were canceled by local officials.
In light of the rocket fire, schools, learning institutions and day care centers located between seven and 40 kilometers from the Gaza Strip will be closed Sunday, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor said.
Studies in locations between zero and seven kilometers from the Strip will be held, but only in protected rooms. In addition, the Home Front Command prohibited any public gatherings with more than 500 people.
The Home Front Command also asked people who live within 40 kilometers of the Gaza Strip to stay near structures protected against rockets.On Saturday, 35 projectiles, including Grads and mortar shells, were fired at southern communities, hitting built-up areas in Ashdod, Ashkelon and regional councils across the region. A number of the rockets caused extensive damages to buildings.
The wave of rockets came after the IDF, working with the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), identified and struck an Islamic Jihad rocket cell in Gaza earlier on Saturday, killing five terrorists, including senior Islamic Jihad commander Ahmed Sheikh Khalil, who was responsible for the group’s considerable rocket production facilities.
Army sources said the cell was the same one that fired the unprovoked long-range Grad that struck near Rehovot last week. That rocket was supposedly launched to mark the anniversary of the 1995 assassination in Malta of Islamic Jihad leader Fathi Shikaki, the first person to publish a booklet that legitimized suicide in jihad.
“The cell was preparing to fire another rocket into Israel,” an IDF spokesman said. Other reports added that the cell was targeted at an Islamic Jihad training camp. The terrorist organization vowed a major response to the air strike.
Islamic Jihad’s propaganda wing released a video on the Internet on Saturday showing a multi-rocket launcher mounted on a truck and firing several projectiles in succession.
The video is part of a boast by the Iranian-backed group that its rocket launching capabilities have improved over recent years.
The group’s claim that the video was taken on Saturday in Gaza could not be confirmed. The organization has been the recipient of large-scale Iranian support, both military and financial.
In the past, the organization’s leadership described itself as “one of the many fruits on our leader [former Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini’s tree.”
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman MK Shaul Mofaz said Sunday that Israel should continue striking Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, saying it must restore its deterrence capabilities.
"Israel must bring back its deterrence capabilities that it lost," Mofaz told Israel Radio. Doing so, he said, "is the only way to stop the rocket fire."
Israel cannot allow terror organizations in the Gaza Strip to take southern Israel's residents hostage whenever it feels like it, he added.
Reuters contributed to this report.