Iron Dome intercepts rockets over Sderot in fresh truce violation; schools to stay closed in Ashkelon, Sderot and Gaza border areas Friday; Gazans call for fresh rocket fire as Islamic Jihad spokesman says fighters still have ‘fingers on trigger’
Elior Levy and Matan Tzuri – www.ynetnews.com
The residents of southern Israel braced for another night of rocket fire Thursday, after rockets fired from Gaza kept coming in violation of the ceasefire that came into effect in the early hours of the morning.
Sirens sounded in Sderot and the Gaza border community of Shaar HaNegev at around 10pm. The Iron Dome missile defense system brought down two rockets over Sderot.
Fearing such truce breaches, Sderot municipality and local councils in the Gaza border area decided Thursday evening that local schools will remain closed Friday, despite a directive from the IDF Home Front Command to return to normal following the ceasefire with Islamic Jihad.
The city of Ashkelon said late Thursday that its schools would also remain closed Friday due to the ongoing rocket fire.
Meanwhile, demonstrations against the ceasefire took place in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday evening.
The Gaza border communities have come under several rocket barrages after the ceasefire went into effect at 5:30am Thursday.
“Following the rocket sirens in the area, the forum of the heads of the Gaza border councils decided that tomorrow (Friday) there will be no studies at any educational institutions in the councils surrounding Gaza,” the heads of the local authorities said in a joint statement.
“We are in contact with the IDF and are monitoring developments,” the statement said, adding that, “The decision was made out of concern for students and educational staff.”
The decision was met however with outrage from some local residents.
“It’s the wrong decision that impacts adversely on our resilience, it’s a surrender to terrorism,” they said.
In northerm Gaza, protesters took to the streets following a spontaneous social media drive to call for continued rocket strikes on Israeli population centers.
Abu Hamza, the spokesman for the Islamic Jihad military wing, said Thursday evening: “Our fighters in all military units still have their fingers on the trigger and are functioning in an integrated military system. They are at the disposal of the organization’s leadership.”
The fragile ceasefire has been violated by Gaza militants several times since it came into effect. At 5:23pm, sirens were heard in the regional councils Sdeot Negev, Eshkol and Shaar HaNegev. Iron Dome intercepted one rocket, and there were no injuries or damage reported.
At 10:54 am, five rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip at Israeli communities bordering the Strip. Iron Dome intercepted two of them.
In this case, too, there were no injuries or damage.
Between 6am and 7am, several more rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into the Gaza-area communities, also without causing casualties or damage.
After a situation assessment, the IDF Southern Command and the Home Front Command decided Thursday afternoon to remove all the restrictions on the Gaza border area, such as limits to public gatherings.
The army also decided to return to regular routine at the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings into Gaza and restore the fishing zone for Palestinians to 15 nautical miles off the Gaza coast.
The violence began early Tuesday, with a predawn Israeli strike in Gaza that killed Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata. The organization vowed revenge and while Hamas expressed its solidarity, by Wednesday night it had yet to engage in the fighting.
The rocket attacks on Israel followed soon after Abu al-Ata’s killing, and on Tuesday the south and large parts of the center of the country came close to a standstill as schools were closed and all non-essential workers were told to stay home or near a bomb shelter.
Rockets were intercepted by Iron Dome as far north as Tel Aviv, with attacks also targeting nearby cities of Holon and Rishon Lezion.
The army said Thursday that the missile defense system had had a 93% success rate.