Egypt still working to secure Israel-Gaza truce, officials say
At least 11 rockets strike Israel on Sunday morning, after weekend barrage kills Ashkelon man; Islamic Jihad says prepared to lay down arms if Israel halts attacks on Gaza.
Egyptian officials said on Sunday that efforts were still being made to persuade Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip to hold their fire on Israel, after more than two dozen rockets and mortars were launched over the course of the weekend.
The officials denied earlier reports that their efforts to secure an overnight cease-fire had failed. At least 11 rockets were fired at Israel overnight, in addition to the 20 launched on Saturday toward the southern cities of Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gan Yavne, and around Be'er Sheva.
The Israel Defense Forces confirmed that efforts were indeed underway to reach a cease-fire.
A source from Islamic Jihad, which had spearheaded the weekend attacks, said the group welcomed Cairo's mediation efforts. "If the [Israeli] aggression is stopped, we will abide by calm," said Abu Ahmed, the leader of the Islamic Jihad's armed wing said.
Three rockets exploded near the southern Israel city of Ashdod on Sunday morning, and another landed to its east. No injuries or damage were reported. Iron Dome missile defense system successfully intercepted a Grad rocket launched at Ashdod early Sunday.
Southern District Commander Yossi Pariente said on Sunday that the police has been put on high alert in the area. All police officers' vacations were cancelled and additional police have been brought in from other districts.
Classes were cancelled in most southern cities within 40 kilometers of the Gaza border. Ben-University, Sapir College and Achva Academic College have delayed the opening of the academic year due to the security situation.
Ashkelon resident Moshe Ami, 56, was fatally wounded on Saturday by shrapnel as he got out of his car to seek shelter from a rocket launched at the south Israel city. Magen David Adom paramedics took him to the hospital with serious stomach wounds, where his situation deteriorated and a doctor pronounced him dead.
Another man was moderately wounded in the Ashdod rocket strike and three others were lightly hurt. Seventeen trauma victims were reported.
The rocket barrage followed an IDF strike on the Gaza Strip which resulted in the deaths of five Islamic Jihad militants.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that Israel would step up its retaliatory attacks if necessary, but in the meantime, defense officials said, Israel is holding back in an effort to keep the violence from escalating further.
The Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson’s Office confirmed that the Israel Air Force hit six targets in the Gaza Strip late Saturday night. A tunnel in the northern part of the strip was attacked, as were three dispatch position and two centers of militant activity in the southern part of Gaza.
“The IDF will not hesitate to act with determination and force against anyone who perpetrates terror against the citizens in Israel, until quiet returns to the region,” the Spokesperson’s Office said in a statement, adding that it places the onus of blame for the attacks on Hamas.
Hamas militants are not believed to be involved in the attacks, which were claimed by smaller factions. But Israel holds Hamas ultimately responsible for all violence against it emanating from the territory.