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Elham AbolFateh

Middle East

Tense calm in Gaza periphery after night of rocket barrages، IDF strikes

Tuesday 26/March/2019 - 10:08 AM
Israeli-Gaza border
Israeli-Gaza border
Residents of southern Israeli woke to a tense but relatively quiet morning Tuesday، following a night in which over 60 rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip and the IDF struck multiple targets in the Palestinian territory، The Times of Israel reported.

After firing around 30 rockets at Israel Monday evening، the Hamas said it had accepted an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreement with Israel that entered into effect at 10 p.m. But Hamas in the Strip continued to fire projectiles at southern Israel into the night، with the army saying another 30 rockets were launched between 10 p.m. and 3:15 a.m.

The Iron Dome defense system intercepted several of the projectiles، and most of the other rockets and mortars fell in open areas، the army said.

There were no injuries in the rocket attacks، though a home in the southern town of Sderot sustained a direct hit by a rocket that did not explode.

In response to the attacks during the night، IAF aircraft struck 15 targets in Gaza، including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad military compounds in the north of the territory، the army said. In the morning the army said fighter jets struck additional targets in a Hamas military compound in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip. IDF tanks and attack helicopters also targeted several Hamas military posts.

On the Israeli side of the border there had been quiet since the last rocket launch at 3:15 a.m. Nevertheless، schools were to remain closed in the Gaza border region as well as in the cities of Beersheba، Ashkelon and Ashdod، due to safety concerns.

Departing the US for Israel around 2 a.m. (Israel time)، Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would head straight for IDF headquarters upon landing in Tel Aviv Tuesday afternoon.

"We will deal with these issues،” he said. “We gave a very powerful response. Hamas needs to know that we won’t hesitate to go in [to Gaza] and take any required steps."

He said the upcoming election in two weeks’ time was not a consideration in deciding Israel’s next actions. “This is unrelated to anything، not to any date، but only to Israel’s security needs."

Also on Tuesday morning، the military published video of some of the previous day’s strikes on Hamas targets.

On Monday Israel carried out a bombing campaign against Hamas targets، including the office of leader Ismail Haniyeh، in response to a rocket attack earlier in the day from Gaza that flattened a central Israeli home، injuring seven people.

Shortly after 5:30 p.m.، the Israeli military began bombing targets throughout the Gaza Strip، approximately 12 hours after the rocket was fired from the coastal enclave and hit the home northeast of Tel Aviv.

The first Monday night barrage، which targeted communities throughout the Eshkol، Sha’ar Hanegev and Central Negev regions of southern Israel، began roughly three hours into the Israeli bombing campaign.

The attack triggered air raid sirens throughout the area، sending thousands of Israelis scrambling to bomb shelters.

At least three Palestinians were wounded in the Israeli strikes، according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. The extent of their injuries was not immediately known.

The Israeli military said its fighter jets and attack helicopters targeted dozens of Hamas sites in the Gaza Strip.

In addition to Haniyeh’s office، which the Hamas leader had fled long before it was targeted، the military bombed what it referred to as a “secret headquarters” of Hamas، used by its intelligence services.

Palestinian media said the building، which was leveled in the Israeli attack، belonged to the al-Multazem insurance company.

The military said it was also targeting a five-story building that was used by Hamas’s internal security service.

Israel began its retaliatory strikes around the same time as Netanyahu met US President Donald Trump in Washington. In comments from the White House، the prime minister said “Israel is responding forcefully to this wanton aggression."

Shortly before the raids began، an Egyptian military intelligence delegation left the Strip، where its initial attempts to broker a ceasefire reportedly failed.

With the start of the IDF strikes on Monday evening، cities and towns throughout southern and central Israel opened their public bomb shelters in anticipation of retaliatory attacks from Gaza. Tel Aviv، Beersheba، Petah Tikva، Kiryat Gat، Rishon Lezion and other cities and towns throughout the country all opened their municipal bomb shelters.

Residents of the Israeli communities closer to Gaza were told to remain within close distance of their bomb shelters and other protected spaces.

The early morning rocket attack Monday destroyed the home in the town of Mishmeret، northeast of Tel Aviv، making it the farthest reaching strike from the Strip since the 2014 Gaza war. Two of the people inside were moderately wounded and five others، including two small children، were lightly injured.

Edited by Rabea Yehia

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