Gaza gunmen fire at soldiers near Sufa

Three Kassam rockets hit western Negev; attacks seemingly refute reports of a 24-hour ceasefire.

islamic jihad dressed as trees 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
islamic jihad dressed as trees 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Gaza gunmen fired at IDF soldiers patrolling the security fence near the Sufa crossing late Monday afternoon, seemingly refuting reports of a 24-hour ceasefire. The troops returned fire. No one was wounded and no damage was reported. In addition, soldiers arrested two Palestinians near Kissufim who had crossed the Gaza fence. They were transferred for interrogation. Also Monday afternoon, three Kassam rockets fired by Gaza terrorists hit southern Israel. One struck the Eshkol region, while two hit the Sha'ar Hanegev area. No one was wounded and no damage was reported. Meanwhile, Egypt's Foreign Ministry flatly denied reports it had asked Hamas to temporarily hold its fire as a condition for transferring aid to the Strip via the Kerem Shalom crossing, Army Radio reported on Monday afternoon. Earlier on Monday, Hamas government spokesman Taher Nunu and senior Hamas official Ayman Taha said that Gaza factions had stopped launching rockets at Israel for 24 hours at Egypt's request so that the aid would be transferred by the Egyptian Red Crescent. According to Taha, the brief cease-fire went into effect on Sunday evening. Taha was also quoted as saying that if Israel ceased from all military strikes in Gaza and opened the crossings into the Gaza Strip, Hamas might be willing to consider a longer truce. "If a new [truce] offer were made, which met our demands, then we would be willing to examine it," he was quoted as saying. Taha said that the Palestinians would respond to every escalation, including carrying out suicide bombings inside Israel. Islamic Jihad also denied that a 24-hour truce was in place. One of the group's Gaza spokesmen, Daoud Shihad, said the organization had no knowledge of such a cease-fire. The IDF has been carrying out strikes against rocket launching squads in the Strip, following the increased rocket fire and the end of the six-month, Egypt-brokered truce last week. Also on Monday, against the backdrop of rising tensions in Gaza after the expiration of the Gaza cease-fire, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen Gabi Ashkenazi said that the current situation was unacceptable. Speaking to Army Radio on Monday morning, he said, "It's impossible to accept a reality in which Gaza-belt residents are getting wounded. Hamas is responsible for this, and we will deal with them." "The IDF is prepared for every possible operation that could be required in the Gaza Strip. I'll present the different options to the political echelons, and we'll do what we're ordered to do," he continued. Ashkenazi added that captive soldier Gilad Schalit, who has been held by Hamas for 911 days, was one of the army's considerations in deciding on military action in the Gaza Strip. "I feel we haven't completed the mission. We sent him and his friends… and until we get him back, we haven't completed the mission. We work on this issue every day, and are making all efforts to bring Gilad home," the IDF chief said. Ashkenazi went on to comment on Hamas's weaponry, saying, "Hamas is always trying to improve the range and quality of its missiles... [Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yuval Diskin's comments on Sunday] didn't tell us anything we didn't already know. We're regularly keeping track of the type and quality of Hamas's weapons." Diskin had told the cabinet Sunday that the terror group now has weapons with the ability to reach "Kiryat Gat, Ashdod and the outskirts of Beersheba." Throughout Sunday, 19 rockets fired from the Strip hit the western Negev, as well as at least three mortar shells. One person was lightly wounded in the barrage, and a rocket scored a direct hit on a Sderot house, causing extensive damage. Another rocket struck near Ashkelon. The Israel Air Force targeted Kassam rocket launchers in Gaza in response to the attacks. Palestinian sources reported late Sunday night that four Palestinians, including a child, were lightly-to-moderately wounded in an IAF strike west of Gaza City. The IDF confirmed that IAF helicopters had targeted a rocket launching squad. Earlier Sunday, IAF aircraft scored direct hits on two Kassam launchers that had been prepped to fire. According to Palestinians, another IAF strike on Sunday afternoon wounded a woman near Gaza City, but the IDF denied having carried out such a strike.