The Egyptian brokered ceasefire between Israel and
the Gaza Strip terror groups came into effect at 6:00 am Thursday morning.
The Israeli Air Force struck a Qassam cell in the central Gaza Strip a short while before the ceasefire came into effect.
The ceasefire is to be absolute, binding both the IDF and all the militant groups in Gaza. Should the truce hold, and after several days, Israel stands to reopen the Karni and Sufa goods crossings, allowing large quantities of food, fuel, building materials and other goods into the strip, in order to facilitate its economy.
Once the Karni and Sufa crossings open – and prior to the reopening of the Rafah crossing – the negotiations to release kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit are
to be accelerated.
Both Israel and Egypt have
linked the opening of Rafah crossing to Shalit's release. As far as the Egyptians are concerned, opening the crossing would require Hamas to agree to Palestinian Authority forces and EU monitors to be stationed in the crossing in a supervising capacity.
Egypt has also committed to increase its intelligence gathering activities in the Sinai Peninsula in order to foil any future attempts to smuggle weapons and explosives into the Gaza Strip.
Still, despite Wednesday's formal announcements by Jerusalem, Gaza and Cairo saying that the ceasefire agreement will take effect on Thursday morning, Israel's western Negev area suffered multiple rocket attacks Wednesday.
Palestinian terror groups opened fire on Israelis near the border and proceeded to launched at least 29 Qassam rockets and 10 mortar shells towards the western Negev. Seven rockets were fired within the space of 15 minutes, landing mostly in open areas south of Ashkelon and near Sderot; but the most recent attack resulted in a direct hit on a house in Sderot, and 10 residents who suffered shock.
The Israeli Air Force struck two different rocket cells in the northern Gaza Strip, which Palestinian sources said were responsible for the rocket salvo. The IDF stated that in both cases the IAF reported hitting its targets.
Meanwhile, Amos Gilad, Head of Defense Ministry's Security-Diplomatic Bureau, said Wednesday that "unless Gilad Shalit is released, Rafah crossing will not be reopened.
"I think the ceasefire is the only way we can hope to be able to facilitate Shalit's release," he said, adding that the issue had been prioritized during his talks with Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman in Cairo on Tuesday.
Roni Sofer contributed to this report