Gaza Mortar Shell Lands in Israel for First Time Since Cease-fire

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An Israeli police explosives expert holds the remains of a rocket fired from Gaza in Israel's south, July 7, 2014.Credit: Reuters

A mortar shell fired from the Gaza Strip landed in Israeli territory on Tuesday, the first time since the end of the recent war between Israel and the Palestinian factions in Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces confirmed. 

Hamas later detained those responsible for the firing, Israel security sources said on Wednesday morning. It was clear that Hamas was interested in maintaining the cease-fire, the cources added.

Earlier, Hamas had said it had no knowledge of any mortar attack on Israel and that the Palestinians factions remained committed to the truce. "There is no sign a mortar bomb was fired from Gaza and Palestinian factions are committed to keep the agreement for calm, and eager to maintain it," spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.

There were no casualties or damage from the incident, an Israeli military spokeswoman said after authorities located remnants of the shell near a community close to Gaza's border.

A rocket siren sounded in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council in southern Israel on Monday, but it was a false alarm, according to the IDF.

The head of the Eshkol Regional Council, Haim Yellin, said in response to the fire toward Israel on Tuesday that "it's unclear whether the launch was part of internal exercises or if it was targeting the communities. Whatever it was, we will not accept sporadic fire toward our communities."

According to Yellin, the Israeli leadership will be measured in relation to how it chooses to protect its citizens – if it pursues a diplomatic agreement which leads to a long-term calm in the region, or if it continues in the never-ending cycle of violence: "We have the strongest army in the world. We don't have to be afraid to negotiate out of military prowess and bring the coveted calm to the Gaza envelope and to the south. We expect the Israeli government to act to bring peace to the area, with the same determination with which the soldiers fought to neutralize the threat of the tunnels."

The Movement for the Future of the Western Negev, a group established following the war by residents of the Gaza envelope, also responded to the rocket fire and said that "only the formulation and implementation of a new strategy can bring about change. Only by striving toward permanent diplomatic agreement can long-term security in our region be maintained."

The movement called on the public to attend a protest rally on Saturday evening, demanding the government for a "long term solution to give a future and security for us and for our children."

Earlier on Tuesday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon estimated that fighting would not resume with the Gaza Strip at the end of this month, despite the difficulties in reaching a permanent Israel-Hamas cease-fire agreement.

Ya'alon made the remarks in a conversation with army reporters at the headquarters in Tel Aviv, in response to a question about the situation in the Gaza Strip. He added that Israeli deterrence in the wake of Operation Protective Edge this summer was strong, and he said he hoped that if a solution could be found via Egyptian mediation that would allow reconstruction of the Strip to begin and would fulfill some of Hamas’ demands – this might ensure a relatively long period of quiet.

The Gaza war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge, ended with a cease-fire between the sides which came into effect on August 26.

According to the IDF, during 50 days of fighting between Israel and the Palestinian factions 4,562 rockets and mortar shells were fired from the Gaza Strip, 3,641 of which exploded in Israeli territory, 224 of which fell in built-up areas.

Also on Tuesday, it was reported that Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations have reached a deal to allow reconstruction work to begin in the Gaza Strip with UN monitoring of the use of materials.

The Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories confirmed that Israel had agreed to the United Nations mechanism. The mechanism will enable the rehabilitation of the Strip while preserving security interests," COGAT said in a statement.