JERUSALEM — Rockets from Gaza continued to hit southern Israel despite efforts by Egypt to achieve a second ceasefire between Hamas and Israel.
Egypt reportedly continued to negotiate a ceasefire for Sunday night in an effort to stem a weekend assault of rockets and mortars on southern Israel.
The Israel Defence Forces Home Front Command on Sunday night announced that there were no more restrictions on public gatherings, meetings, schools, non-essential jobs or shopping centres. Though the lifting of the ban means that schools were to open as usual on Monday after being closed on Sunday, several southern Israeli communities such as Ashdod, Ashkelon, Be’er Sheva and Gan Yavne announced that schools were to remain closed on Monday.
At least 39 rockets and mortars pounded Israel’s south over the weekend, including 11 on Sunday morning. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attacks. The attacks left an Israeli father of four dead and dozens wounded.
“We will do anything to defend Israeli civilians,” said Israel’s defence minister, Ehud Barak, on Sunday afternoon following a meeting with security and intelligence officials. “I advise the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations not to test our capabilities.”
Early Sunday afternoon, reports that Islamic Jihad had accepted an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire surfaced following several hours of calm. That ceasefire came to an end Sunday afternoon when Israel’s Air Force struck a terror cell about to launch a rocket from Gaza to Israel.
At least one member of the terror cell was killed in the Sunday afternoon attack, according to reports.
Several long-range Grad missiles hit in and near cities throughout southern Israel, including Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gan Yavne and Be’er Sheva. A school and a private home were damaged in the attacks, and several cars were burned. Some 200,000 children stayed home from school, and several colleges and Ben-Gurion University did not open for the start of the new academic year on Sunday as scheduled.
An Ashkelon resident and father of four, Moshe Ami, 56, died from injuries sustained when he was hit by shrapnel Saturday as he ran to a shelter from his car. He died in the hospital from stomach wounds several hours after the attack.
On Saturday, Israel’s Air Force attacked a terrorist cell preparing to fire long-range rockets from southern Gaza into Israel, thwarting the launch attempt and killing five terrorists. The Israel Defence Force reported that it was the same terrorist cell that was responsible for rockets fired on Israel last week. It is believed that Israel’s attack sparked the new barrage of rocket fire from Gaza on Israel.
Israel’s Air Force retaliated overnight Saturday for the more than 20 rockets and mortars that rained down on Israeli territory, striking six of what it called “terror activity sites” in Gaza, including three rocket-launching sites and a terror tunnel.
At least 10 Islamic Jihad terrorists have been killed in the Israeli strikes, according to the IDF.
An Iron Dome anti-missile system positioned near Ashdod failed to intercept rockets on Saturday due to a “technical” failure, according to the IDF. It was back in service and intercepted a rocket on Sunday morning.