Rocket fire continues to target Israel despite reports of nearing ceasefire
Terrorists in the Gaza Strip continued to fire rockets into Israel after midnight Wednesday even as an Israeli official indicated that Jerusalem was nearing a ceasefire agreement with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group.
“Quiet will be answered with quiet, and actions in the field will be the deciding factor,” the diplomatic official said, on condition of anonymity.
After midnight sirens were triggered in Ashdod, Ashkelon and the surrounding communities. A local official said five rockets were intercepted by Iron Dome, although there was no immediate confirmation from the IDF.
Shortly before midnight sirens were triggered in Rehovot, Ashdod, Gedera, Yavne and the surrounding communities, sending hundreds of thousands of Israelis rushing to bomb shelters.
However, the IDF said that just one rocket was fired and intercepted over Israel, but its trajectory, together with shrapnel from the interceptor, set off multiple warnings.
The Magen David Adom ambulance service said one person was sustained light injuries after he fell while running to a bomb shelter.
Earlier on Wednesday night, several rounds of rocket barrages were fired at the cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon, north of Gaza, causing no injuries but a small amount of damage.
In response to these rocket attacks, the Israel Defense Forces launched a series of strikes against PIJ targets in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday night, bombing a command center and a military base in the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, as well as a training base used by the terror group’s naval commando unit, which was also used to store weapons, according to the IDF.
The anonymous diplomatic official said the late Wednesday night rocket fire by the terror group appeared to be an effort to make it seem as though the past two days of fighting were a success.
“The Islamic Jihad wants a ceasefire and therefore it is trying to create a false presentation of achievements. The Jihad’s demands prove that Israel’s operations were a success. The IDF killed 20 terrorists and significantly harmed the Jihad’s capabilities,” the official said.
This round of fighting began at 4 a.m. on Tuesday, when the Israeli Air Force carried out a precision strike on a building in the Shejaiya area of Gaza City where Abu al-Ata was located, killing him and his wife, in a joint operation by the IDF and Shin Bet security service.
In response, the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad began firing rockets and mortar shells at southern and central Israel, causing significant property damage, but relatively few injuries.
According to the IDF, over 360 projectiles were fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip, with the majority of them landing in open fields. Dozens of rockets were also launched toward Israel but failed to clear the border and landed in the Strip.
Soldiers operating the Iron Dome air defense system intercepted approximately 90 percent of the rockets heading toward populated areas, the military said.
Three Israelis were directly wounded by the rockets, including a 70-year-old woman who sustained moderate injuries on Wednesday when she was struck by glass shards from a window in her apartment that exploded as a projectile hit. The other two people sustained light injuries from shrapnel, medics said. In addition, dozens of people were lightly hurt after they fell while running to bomb shelters.
In response to the rocket attacks, the IDF conducted multiple rounds of airstrikes in Gaza, targeting PIJ facilities, including underground tunnels, command centers, training bases and weapons factories, as well as squads of terrorist operatives preparing to launch rockets at Israel.
In total, 26 Palestinians were killed in these Israeli strikes on Tuesday and Wednesday, including Abu al-Ata and his wife, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. A seven-year-old boy and two teenagers were also killed, the ministry said.
The vast majority of those killed were identified as members of terror groups, mostly the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
The secretary-general of the Islamic Jihad, Ziad al-Nakhala, said his group laid out its list of demands for a truce to Egyptian moderators.
“We gave specific conditions for a ceasefire,” he told the pro-Hezbollah Al Mayadeen TV station in an interview on Wednesday night. “If Israel accepts them, we will accept a ceasefire.
“If Israel does not accept them, we are going to continue to fight for an open period of time.”
Al-Nakhala said the group’s “simple and humble” demands were: an end to assassinations of terror leaders in Gaza and the West Bank; IDF troops not firing at innocent civilians at Friday border protests; and Israel abiding by the understandings regarding Gaza reached in Cairo during previous ceasefire negotiations.
In the past year, both the Egyptian General Intelligence Services and UN Special Coordinator to the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov have been involved in brokering multiple unofficial armistices between Israel and the Gaza terror groups.
These agreements generally provide some reconstruction resources to Hamas in exchange for an end to active hostilities.
Israel and Gaza have engaged in several sporadic rounds of violence over the last two years as the sides attempted to reach a long-term ceasefire.
Ceasefire Rumors Surface Between Gaza & Israel, Met with Skepticism from Both Sides
An Israeli official claims that talks are underway to bring this conflict to an end; A report indicates that over 400 missiles in total have been fired from Gaza since Tuesday morning; As many as 24 deaths are reported in Gaza due to retaliatory strikes conducted by the IDF.
As of Wednesday morning, it is reported that talks of a ceasefire between Gaza & Israel are now on the horizon, but are yet to become a reality. Far from making a promise and remaining skeptical of the circumstances, the official stated that “things are happening all at the same time…this could end tonight, or tomorrow but can also slide into further escalations.” A representative from the Islamic jihad has stated, “We are not talking of mediation, it’s not appropriate to talk about it…When we complete our response that we want to send, it will be possible to talk about calming things down.”
In response to the words of the Islamic jihad official, Netanyahu countered, “We will not tolerate attacks on our citizens…In the last year, we accumulated a mass of these attacks. We are not bent on escalation, but that we would respond to every attack against us, and respond very sharply. Islamic Jihad would do well to understand this right now, instead of when it will be too late. I believe that Islamic Jihad is starting to internalize this message. They understand that we will continue to strike them without mercy. They understand that Israel is very strong and that our will is very great.” Additionally, the Defense Minister of Israel warned that any terrorist who intends to inflict violence upon Israeli citizens ‘will not survive the night’.
Since the assassination of Islamic jihad leader Bahaa Abu al-Ata on Tuesday morning, terrorists from inside of Gaza have fired over 400 rockets into Israel, with 50% of them landing in open territory. The Iron Dome currently has a 90% success rate when it comes to intercepting enemy projectiles throughout this conflict. In response, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has carried out several retaliatory strikes in Gaza, resulting in the deaths of at least 20 jihadist militants.
Preemptively, the IDF has also positioned artillery resources around the border of Gaza, should tensions continue to escalate. Two different infantry battalions are reported to have been deployed as well.
Israeli official: Ceasefire could be reached tonight
An Israeli official said negotiations are underway to obtain a ceasefire and that the recent clash with Palestinian Islamic Jihad could be over “tonight,” Ynet reported on Wednesday.
The official also warned that “everything is happening at once…this could end tonight, or tomorrow but can also slide into further escalations.”Ziyad Rushdi al-Nakhalah, Secretary-General of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is expected to land in Cairo to meet with the Egyptian Intelligence to discuss the terms of a ceasefire with Israel.Read More Related Articles
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov who is also in Cairo claimed that he has been working with the Egyptians to bring the situation under control.
Over 360 rockets were fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad [PIJ] at Israel from the Gaza Strip since IDF forces eliminated PIJ leader Bahaa Abu al-Ata on Tuesday morning in a targeted strike that killed al-Ata and his wife.
At the time of this writing 24 Palestinian had been killed, all but one woman, al-Atta’s wife, were terrorists.
Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, David Schenker said that “the Islamic Jihad has nothing to lose, so it hard to negotiate or have a mediation. They just lost their senior official, very hard to stomach.”
“There are a lot of missiles that have fallen on Israel in the last day and a half. I hope they can come to a resolution soon on some type of deescalation,” he said.
Schenker, who is currently in Israel, said Hamas’s absence from the fighting was positive. “It suggests that Hamas does not want to fight with Israel right now, nor does Israel want to fight with Hamas right now. That is positive.”
Over 360 rockets fired so far; 24 dead in Gaza, mostly terrorists
The number of Palestinians killed since the beginning of fighting between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad climbed to 23 Wednesday afternoon after the IDF struck a group of terrorists preparing to fire an anti-tank missile at Israeli positions across the Gaza border.
More than 100 rockets were fired into Israel since Wednesday morning, bringing the total number since fighting broke out on Tuesday to 350.
Israel deployed artillery batteries along the Gaza border and 13 Palestinians were killed in a series of attacks throughout Wednesday. The IDF was on high alert in the morning after the quiet felt overnight in Israel was broken by several rocket barrages launched by Palestinian Islamic Jihad towards southern and central Israel on Wednesday morning.
Rocket sirens first sounded in Gaza border communities around 6 a.m. and shortly afterwards near Latrun and Beit Shemesh outside Jerusalem. Residents reported hearing loud explosions, likely Iron Dome missile defense interceptors fired towards the rockets fired from Gaza.
Several dozen more salvos were then fired throughout the morning toward southern Israeli communities bordering the Shfela and the Gaza Strip, as well as the cities of Netivot, Ashkelon and Sderot.
Following the rocket fire, the IDF struck several Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) targets in the central Gaza Strip, killing two Palestinians identified as 38-year-old Khaled Moawad Faraj, a field commander with the terror group, and 32-year-old Alaa Ashtyawu, an operative with the group.
Another five people were reported killed in an Israeli airstrike against a motorcycle in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City. Several others were injured.
PIJ confirmed that Faraj, the group’s central brigade commander, was killed, and warned of retaliation. Gaza’s health ministry said that the number of Palestinian casualties since Tuesday morning was 12; the IDF said the majority were PIJ terrorists.
While the IDF doesn’t want the situation to escalate into a military operation inside the Strip, there has been a small increase in troop deployment along the Gaza border fence with a limited number of companies and battalions. Artillery batteries and tanks have also been deployed along the Gaza border.
The rocket fire came after six hours of relative calm where no rockets were fired, after over 220 rockets were fired towards southern and central Israel after the IDF assassinated PIJ commander Bahaa Abu al-Ata in a pre-dawn precision airstrike.
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said Wednesday morning that al-Ata “was an architect of terror belonging to Islamic Jihad who worked against Israeli citizens.”
Bennett warned that Israel assassinated him yesterday and “will not hesitate to act again in the future. This morning we send a clear message to all our enemies, in all decrees: Whoever plans to hurt us during the day will never survive the night.”
The IDF said that 90% of rockets heading towards residential areas were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. Of the rockets not intercepted, 60% of them fell in open areas.
Dozens of other rockets fired by the group fell in the Gaza Strip, including one which, according to Haaretz, hit the office of Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, which had its offices on the fifth floor of the Al-Harara office building in Gaza City.
Following rocket fire throughout the day, the IDF launched three waves of retaliatory airstrikes, hitting dozens of targets belonging to the group across the blockaded coastal enclave.
Tuesday night, PIJ spokesperson Abu Hamza warned that the “coming hours will add a new title of defeat for [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu.”
According to IDF spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Hidai Zilberman, the overnight calm was not indicative of a ceasefire but rather that PIJ was managing their weapon stockpile for several days of fighting.“Palestinian Islamic Jihad resumed firing this morning and the group intends to fire rockets in a way similar to what we saw yesterday,” Zilberman said Wednesday morning. “PIJ is being meticulous and managing its stockpiles for several days of fighting, and is keeping all their options on the table.”
According to the spokesman, Hamas has not yet been involved in the fighting, but “the situation is fragile” and as such, the IDF has targeted PIJ positions and infrastructure that might injure or kill civilians so Hamas won’t have a reason to join in.
“We are not attacking Hamas, and the PIJ targets we are striking are not in the center of Gaza City – like 5-story buildings – because we understand that we are walking on a tightrope. We do not want to kill civilians, which could lead Hamas to join the fighting combat.”
The IDF is also continuing to gather intelligence against PIJ targets across the Strip.“
We have a relatively rich PIJ target bank and we will continue to prepare additional options, both defensive and offensive,” Zilberman said.
Al-Ata was described by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi on Tuesday as the man “who undermined the quiet in southern Israel” and who “acted in every way to sabotage attempts for calm with Hamas. He was a living ticking bomb, and up until today worked and planned attacks. He was responsible for the majority of attacks that took place over the past year.”
Since June, the military has been working to stop al-Ata from continuing to plan and carry out attacks and rocket fire towards Israel.
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Psalm 122:6-8 KJV – “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee.”