IDF strikes Gaza cell attempting to launch rocket at Israel

One terrorist killed, another injured; attempted launch comes nearly 8 hours into reported cease fire with Islamic Jihad.

Islamic Jihad Militants launch rocket  in Gaza 521 (photo credit: Reuters / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
Islamic Jihad Militants launch rocket in Gaza 521
(photo credit: Reuters / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
The IDF identified a rocket launching cell in the southern Gaza Strip Sunday afternoon as terrorists were preparing to launch a rocket toward Israel, despite a reported cease fire with Islamic Jihad. IAF planes struck the cell, preventing the rocket from being launched.
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 was committed to a cease fire agreement, although it asserted it reserved the right to respond to any Israeli attacks, Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported.
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The attempted rocket launch mid-Sunday afternoon, however, cast doubts on the lasting power of the agreement. It was not clear if Islamic Jihad or another terrorist group in Gaza was responsible for the attempted launch.One Palestinian was killed and another seriously wounded in the IDF strike, Palestinian news sources reported.
The second attempt in as many hours to implement an Egyptian-brokered cease fire went into effect at around 7 a.m. Sunday morning, but the latest rocket launching attempt cast doubts on that agreement as well.Following the 6 a.m. deadline for the 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.IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai said that the IDF "wasn't waiting for any decision" by the Islamic Jihad, referring to reports of a ceasefire. He added that the army had been ordered by IDF Chief of General-Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz to prepare a number of responses that had been prepared by the government.
Gantz has been receiving updates throughout the day on land-based and aerial defense systems, and approved a number of operations designed to intensify the IDF's response to rocket fire.
"There are pinpoint plans to strike terrorist infrastructure - and more than that," Mordechai said. "Until now, the IDF has harmed the Islamic Jihad's rocket manufacturing and firing infrastructure, including a senior member who was responsible for these things," he added.
Responding to the rocket fire, the IAF struck six targets in the Gaza Strip overnight Saturday. 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,"
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.
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.