Ashdod Grad - Ilan Assayag - October 2011
Ashdod residents examining the place where a Grad rocket landed in their city, October 30, 2011. Photo by Ilan Assayag
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Residents of the south no longer have to stay within a short distance of bomb shelters or protected rooms, the Home Front Command announced yesterday, even as Gaza militants continued to fire rockets on southern Israel despite conflicting reports of an Egyptian-mediated cease-fire between Israel and Islamic Jihad.

A Qassam rocket was fired at a community in the Eshkol region near the Gaza border yesterday evening. Four rockets hit the Ashdod area yesterday and five hit the Ashkelon area.

The Israel Air Force attacked a militant cell in the Gaza Strip poised to launch rockets at Israel, just hours after the Islamic Jihad announced that it had accepted the cease-fire. One militant from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine was killed and another was wounded in the attack, according to a member of the group. Nine other Palestinian gunmen and an Israeli civilian have been killed since the violence began last week.

The air force also struck a tunnel dug at the north end of the Gaza Strip to enable an attack within Israel. Two structures that were used by the Islamic Jihad in the south of the Strip were destroyed, and three rocket launcher sites were also hit.

After the initial reports of a cease-fire, Israeli television stations quoted senior Egyptian sources as saying Egypt was still working to secure a truce with Islamic Jihad that would halt all rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip effective Sunday night.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday denied there was any truce with the Islamic Jihad, but Israel Defense Forces sources said they expect the Islamic Jihad to refrain from firing on Israel.

Palestinian militants in Gaza fired some 30 rockets and mortar shells at Israel on Saturday, killing a 56-year-old man in Ashkelon and causing extensive property damage.

The Home Front Command changed its policy for civilian defense yesterday evening in the areas affected by recent rocket attacks, announcing that as of this morning Israelis will be allowed to hold large events in the area near Gaza. Civilians are no longer required to stay near shelters and are allowed to attend school or go to work freely.

Despite the announcement, schools in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Be'er Sheva and Gan Yavneh will be closed today. Colleges and universities will be open.

The Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted two rockets targeted at Ashdod and Gan Yavneh, though it had failed to intercept any of the rockets fired Saturday.

An examination conducted by the Israel Air Force determined that the battery did not function properly on Saturday due to a technical problem caused when the missile system was set up too quickly. One system has been deployed near Ashdod and one near Be'er Sheva. Yesterday the air force started transferring the equipment for a third in the south.

The Kerem Shalom crossing for the transfer of goods with Gaza was reopened yesterday after being closed over the weekend.

Hundreds of residents of Ashkelon attended the funeral yesterday of Moshe Ami, who was killed Saturday when a Grad rocket struck his car.

IDF officers said that for now the army wants to bring an end to the recent events and not escalate the crisis. Despite the continued rocket fire, the IDF sources said the Islamic Jihad also seems not to want to escalate the situation.

The Jewish Agency for Israel announced yesterday that it will operate an emergency fund, in cooperation with the Defense Ministry, the National Insurance Institute and local authorities, to aid the families of those injured or killed in the recent rocket attacks.

The Jewish Agency will provide an immediate emergency grant of NIS 4,000 for needs such as medicine, food and transportation.