The terror group continued to launch rockets at southern Israel after a cease-fire was declared and the IDF lifted safety precautions.
By World Israel News Staff and AP
Not long after a cease-fire was announced between Israel and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, the terror group began firing rockets at the Jewish state.
Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted and neutralized the rocket, raising the specter of another round of rocket attacks from the Gaza-based terror group, which shot around 450 rockets fired from the Strip at Israeli civilians.
Before the truce was announced, Islamic Jihad struck a defiant tone, issuing statement that it did not seek an end to the fighting, which began after Israel assassinated Baha Abu Al Ata, one of the terror group’s key figures, in a targeted killing on Tuesday morning.
Al Ata was behind a string of rocket attacks and was planning a cross-border terror infiltration. Israel hailed the operation as a victory, defending its policy of targeting militants in their homes.
Islamic Jihad spokesman Musab al-Berim said the Egyptian-brokered deal went into effect at 5:30 a.m. An Israeli military spokesman tweeted that the Gaza operation “is over.” Some restrictions were lifted on residents of southern Israel and traffic returned to the streets of Gaza.
But after hours of calm, a barrage of five rockets set off air raid sirens in southern Israel. No group claimed responsibility, and Israel did not immediately respond. Sirens sounded again late Thursday, when a rocket fired from Gaza was intercepted by Israeli defenses, the military said.
The rare targeted killing by Israel sparked the heaviest fighting with Gaza terrorists since May. Islamic Jihad fired hundreds of rockets toward Israel, while Israel responded with scores of airstrikes. However, Gaza’s ruling Hamas stayed out of the latest escalation, adhering to understandings brokered by Egypt after earlier waves of violence.
Israel typically does not publicly acknowledge deals with terror groups, and on Thursday officials said only that Israel would halt fire as long as the terrorists did the same. The IDF killed some 25 terrorists and struck a tough blow to Islamic Jihad facilities.
“The goals of the operation have now been fully achieved,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a tour of a missile defense center.
“Our enemies received the message … We can reach everyone, even in their bed. I hope that this lesson will be learned.”
The rocket fire brought daily life to a halt across southern Israel as nonstop air-raid sirens canceled schools and forced people indoors. At least three people were lightly wounded from shrapnel or shattered glass. Most rockets landed in open areas or were shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.
The Israeli military’s Home Front command tweeted that it was lifting restrictions in certain areas but leaving them in place in the areas surrounding Gaza.
Israel has repeatedly targeted Iran-linked terrorists and facilities in Syria and elsewhere in the region as its shadow conflict with Tehran has grown more visible in recent years. Iran supplies Islamic Jihad with training, expertise and money.