Two Palestinians Killed in Gaza Blast Following Night of Renewed Fighting

Israeli army strikes in Gaza in retaliation for two rounds of fire after rocket alerts sound in communities bordering the Strip, hours after Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire brokered by a third party

Flames of rockets fired by Palestinian militants are seen over the Gaza Strip in May.
Flames of rockets fired by Palestinian militants are seen over the Gaza Strip in May.Credit: Hatem Moussa/AP

Two Palestinians, a 35-year-old man and his 13-year-old son, were said killed in Gaza Sunday morning following a night of renewed fire between Israel and Palestinian fighters in Gaza, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

Palestinians report that an Israeli drone launched the strike, though officials cautioned that they're still looking into the matter. The two fatalities were identified as Ahmed Hassan and his son Louis.

Israeli army attacks launching pad that was used to fire mortars at Israel from Gaza.Credit: Haaretz/ IDF Spokesperson's Unit

The UN secretary-general’s envoy to the region, Nickolay Mladenov, arrived at the Erez crossing to meet with Hamas officials following Saturday night's cease-fire.

Israel struck in Gaza on Saturday night in response to rocket fire emanating from the Strip, hours after Hamas and Islamic Jihad announced a cease-fire following the most serious and widespread flare-up between Israel and the Palestinians since the 2014 Gaza war.

The Israeli army said in a statement that at around 1 A.M. it detected mortars being launched at Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip.

The fire triggered a rocket alert in the Eshkol Regional Council. The Israel Defense Forces said that the site from which the mortars were launched was attacked in response.

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Shortly thereafter, rocket sirens sounded in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council near the border. The Israeli army later said that the rocket alert was triggered by yet another round of fire from the Gaza Strip toward Israel. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted one rocket.

Israel's government had accepted earlier in the night cease-fire terms that Hamas and Islamic Jihad have agreed to along with a third party, including a decision to stop Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman decided to accept the terms in order to stop Hamas fire aimed at Israeli Gaza-border communities.

A senior official in the security establishment has clarified that "only facts on the field will determine how we continue to respond."

The cease-fire is expected to raise resistance in the security cabinet, especially from Education Minister Nafatli Bennett, who recently presented to Netanyahu a general plan regarding the Strip.

Bennett is convinced that a cease-fire would only strengthen Hamas and that Israel would not be able to accept the threat posed to its south, forcing the country to enter another round of fighting in coming months.

Bennett stated after the cease-fire was announced that "the formula according to which Hamas dictates to us the cease-fire after two months of fires and hundreds of rockets fired at residents of Gaza-border communities is a grave error."

"Our feelings about the cease-fire are very difficult as whoever decides to open fire and [initiate the] cease-fire is Hamas, not the State of Israel,” said Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi. “I call on the prime minister and the cabinet ministers to go down to the south and hear their hearts as we come to end of the most difficult week since Operation Protective Edge," Davidi added.

Saturday evening saw a decline in the number of missiles launched from Gaza. The IDF attributes this to Hamas’ desire to end the current round of hostilities that began Friday night.

Egyptian intelligence officials and Mladenov spent most of Saturday on the phone to both sides to achieve a cease-fire. Egypt is pressuring Hamas to stop the missiles, saying that if they persist, Israel’s response could be fierce and lead to a general deterioration.

Israel is waiting to see whether Hamas is serious about imposing its new position on its grass-roots activists and those of the various Palestinian factions, as mediators have claimed.

In similar circumstances in the past, a “braking period” of a few hours has been needed – and sometimes a day or two for a full cease-fire to go into effect. Israel is demanding that Hamas pledge to stop its rocket and mortar fire, and has also demanded that Hamas stop the airborne firebombs, but it’s unclear whether the organization will do so.

Two Palestinians were said to be killed and 14 wounded by Israeli strikes, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Four Israelis were lightly wounded after a rocket fired from Gaza struck their home in the southern city of Sderot Saturday.

The wounded Israelis include a 50-year-old male with wounds to his chest, a 17-year-old female with facial wounds and a 20-year-old female with wounded limbs. Emergency responders took the wounded to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.

Noa Landau contributed to this report.

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