Cease-fire Breached as Three Rockets Launched at South

After one day back, school canceled in several southern towns.

Two days after an Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire was announced in the south, Palestinians violated the truce by launching three Grad rockets at Israel last night.

And in Gaza, a Palestinian boy accidentally struck by a bullet when Palestinian gunmen fired in the air during a funeral died of his injuries on Wednesday.

Gaza Rockets Ashdod - Ilan Assayag - 15032012
Ilan Assayag

Initially, Palestinian health official Adham Abu Salmia said that 8-year-old Barka al-Mugrahbi died of wounds sustained in an Israeli air strike on Monday. But the boy's relatives and witnesses later said he was marching in a funeral procession for a Gaza militant when he was struck in the head by an errant bullet fired by other militants.

An Iron Dome anti-missile battery shot down two of the Grads, which were aimed at Be'er Sheva, while the third landed on open ground near Ofakim. The rockets caused no casualties or property damage, but some people suffered anxiety attacks.

After the rockets landed, shortly before 7 P.M., five southern cities - Be'er Sheva, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Kiryat Malakhi and Gan Yavneh - decided to cancel school on Thursday, over the objections of the Home Front Command.

Earlier on Wednesday, Palestinians fired a mortar shell at the western Negev, but it apparently fell short and landed in the Gaza Strip.

As of last night, no Palestinian organization had claimed responsibility for the rockets. But the Israel Defense Forces believes they were launched by one of the small, radical Islamist factions in Gaza. Though all the factions' leaders committed to the truce in talks with Egyptian mediators, it seems some of their operatives don't agree.

Israel will presumably respond to the rocket fire, but its response is expected to be moderate, in an effort to avoid a resumption of the weekend's fighting. Defense officials said they believe Hamas doesn't want a resumption right now and will therefore try to restrain smaller factions.

Targeted killings

But they stressed that Israel will continue to carry out targeted killings of terrorists if it receives intelligence warnings of a planned attack.

"There's no magic solution to rockets," GOC Southern Command Tal Russo said on Wednesday during a visit to a high school in Omer. "There won't be a complete solution even if we embark on another round of fighting."

Speaking before the rockets were fired at Be'er Sheva, Russo added, "I don't know how long the quiet will hold. But if they violate the quiet, we have many tools. In this round, we didn't use all the tools at our disposal. There could be situations in which a larger operation is needed."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was supposed to leave for Paris and Madrid on Wednesday. But despite the cease-fire declaration he canceled the trip due to the "security situation in southern Israel" - raising the question of whether he expects another round of fighting to erupt.

The trip was scheduled to discuss Iran's nuclear program with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the new Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy.