Two Israelis Killed Near Gaza Border an Hour Before Cease-fire

180 rockets and mortars were fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip, mostly at communities near the Gaza border.

Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Two people were killed and another was severely injured when a mortar exploded on Tuesday in the Eshkol Regional Council just an hour before the cease-fire began, raising the Israeli death toll in the 50-day operation to 70. Another man was moderately injured and two others were slightly injured in the same incident.

Palestinian medical services said six people were killed Tuesday throughout the Gaza Strip. Two were electric company employees whose car was struck on their way to repair wires that had collapsed onto a house in the northern Strip, the report said.

In Ashkelon about 20 people were injured after a rocket struck a residential building early Tuesday morning. In the afternoon a rocket was intercepted over Ashkelon and another landed in the yard of a kindergarten in Ashdod. The kindergarten was empty at the time of impact and there were no injuries.

A total of 180 rockets and mortars were fired on Tuesday into Israel from the Gaza Strip, mostly at communities near the Gaza border. Twenty-seven of the rockets were intercepted by Iron Dome, one over the greater Tel Aviv region around 6:30 Tuesday morning.

The cease-fire officially went into effect at 7 P.M. Tuesday, but Hamas fired another round of rockets, as well as five mortars, about 15 minutes later.

A security source said Tuesday that despite Hamas’ objections to Egyptian brokering of the cease-fire, it was Egypt that finally brought about the agreement. “Don’t be so impressed with the celebrations in the Gaza Strip. Even if there’s only one Palestinian left there, he’ll say he won. In the Gaza Strip itself it is believed it will take years to rehabilitate,” a source in the security establishment said. “Hamas took a more severe blow than Israel, but after all we are living in the Middle East, not in illusions.”

The IDF said that at the end of the fighting, 4,564 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel; more than 3,600 of these exploded in Israeli territory, 224 in built-up areas. Iron Dome intercepted 735 rockets. The Israel Air Force bombarded more than 5,200 targets in the Gaza Strip.

on Tuesday afternoon the air force said it struck four militants at two locations in the northern Gaza Strip. In one case, an aerial vehicle struck two militants who were about to launch rockets at Israel. According to the IDF, in both cases the targets were hit.

Early Tuesday morning the air force struck two high-rises in Gaza City. In one of the strikes, a 13-story building known as the Italian Tower, containing offices and residences, collapsed. According to the Palestinian press agency Ma’an, there were more than 100 apartments in the building. Before the strike, the IDF warned the residents to leave the premises, which were almost empty when the air force struck. Twenty people were hurt in the attack, among them five medical personnel. According to the army, Hamas command posts were operating in the building, which also contained hideout apartments for Hamas activists and one was being used to manufacture weapons.

In the second attack, the 12-story Al-Basha building in the city’s Al-Hawa neighborhood was hit. The building contained offices, mainly communications firms.

The IDF bombed a total of more than 60 targets on Tuesday in the Gaza Strip. Also hit were two schools, in the central and northern Strip, from which mortars were fired at Israel.

The army said it was from one of the schools, in the Zeitoun neighborhood, that the mortar was fired which killed 4-year-old Daniel Tragerman from Nahal Oz, and rockets were fired on Ashdod. According to the IDF, Palestinian evacuees who had taken shelter in the school were also warned to leave before these strikes.

Palestinian sources reported that the IDF attacked the house of a senior Islamic Jihad figure, Nafez Azzam, in east Rafah. Five people were injured in the strike; Azzam’s fate is unknown.

Eshkol council head Haim Yellin said in response to the cease-fire that he would not instruct residents of the Gaza border area to return until calm was definitely restored. “The demilitarization of the Gaza Strip is continuing by emptying the Hamas rocket stores through massive firing on the Eshkol region. The government of Israel is asked … to stop talking and start acting. The leadership of Hamas is in the bunkers and you are in Jerusalem. You are invited … to hold your meetings in one of the communities near the border fence. I am sure the decisions you make will be the right ones, swiftly and realistically.”