Israel Lifts Restrictions on Gaza Border Communities After Quiet Night

Security cabinet set to convene after Gaza rocket seriously damaged house in Be'er Sheva

Israeli soldiers stand in front of a house that was seriously damaged by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, Be'er Sheva, Israel, October 17, 2018.
\ Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The Israeli army lifted all the restrictions on routine life near the border with Gaza on Thursday. Schools will operate as normal, the army's Home Front Command announced after conducting a situation assessment. Limitations on holding large gatherings were also canceled.

The security cabinet will meet again Thursday evening to discuss the escalation of the situation in on the southern border, after meeting on Wednesday night.

On Wednesday morning, a rocket launched from the Strip hit a house in the southern Israeli city of Be'er Sheva, damaging it heavily. No one was injured. Another rocket landed in the sea near Israel's largest metropolitan area.

The military said it struck 20 targets in Gaza in response, including a Hamas attack tunnel in the southern Strip

Ahead of a security cabinet meeting on the situation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that "if these attacks do not desist – we will stop them" and vowed that "Israel will act with great force."

Despite his statements about the necessity of landing a “harsh blow” on Hamas and declarations of punitive measures against Gaza, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has yet to present a military plan of action in the Strip, nor the desired results of such an action.

Hamas, for its part, warned Israel that any strike overnight by IDF in the Strip would trigger "an immediate and decisive response." 

A delegation of senior Egyptian intelligence officials left the Strip on Wednesday through the Erez crossing, after arriving on Tuesday. It held meetings with the heads of the Palestinian factions, as well as with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh and Yahya Sinwar, the organization's leader in Gaza.

The visit was set in preperation for the arrival of Egyptian intelligence chief, Abbas Kamel, to Gaza and Ramallah. However, senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk tweeted on Wednesday that he laments the cancellation of Kamel's visit.

At this time it remains unclear whether the cancellation was meant to send a message to Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, or is due to Kamel's schedule, as he is accompanying Egyptian President  Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi in his official visit to Russia.