Four Qassam rockets landed Tuesday morning in open areas within the Eshkol Regional Council. There were no reports of injuries or damage. In response, Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the defense establishment to close the crossings to Gaza and stop the planned transfer of aid into the Strip.
The rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip at the Gaza vicinity communities at around 8:45 am. Residents reported hearing loud explosions.
The Islamic Jihad's military wing, the al-Quds Brigades, claimed responsibility for Tuesday morning's rocket fire in response to an earlier incident, in which 23-year-old al-Quds Brigades commander Jihad Nawahahda of the village of al-Yamon was killed in an exchange of fire with Israel Defense Forces soldiers.
Niki Levy, deputy security officer at the Eshkol Regional Council, said the rockets landed outside the council's communities. "The Color Red alert system was activated in some of the communities, while in the others it wasn't. We have yet to locate the rockets," he said.
He added that the council was prepared for the official end of the ceasefire and was waiting to see what would happen in the coming days.
'Even the animals are traumatized'
Haim Yalin, head of the Eshkol Regional Council, stressed that the truce did not exist as far are he was concerned. "Perhaps in Jerusalem everyone is calm, but here there is no lull. We are ready for all the scenarios which may take place when the alleged truce expires. We have been living under the rocket horror for eight years now."
Ariel Shalit, a resident of one of the kibbutzim in the area, told Ynet, "I heard very loud explosions which rocked the buildings in the area. Not all places here are fortified, so whoever was at work or elsewhere does not have much to do except wait for landings."
Shalit said the kibbutz members feared the end of the truce. "The period of calm we experienced was so good. Only now, when the rocket fire routine began, we've noticed how good it was.
"Our fear of date when the truce ends is so big, and the impacts of the rocket fire on the region's residents are quite difficult. Small children and adults suffer from many cases of anxiety, and even the animals are traumatized."
He noted that people try not to talk about it, but there are those who wonder whether they might have to evacuate the communities in case of a massive attack.
Statistical findings released Monday night have concluded that the ceasefire agreement with the armed Palestinian groups in Gaza, set to expire before the end of the week, has not lived up to its name. According to the defense establishment's data, 2008 saw an increase of over a thousand rockets and mortars from the previous year.
In 2007 over 1,200 rockets and 600 mortar shells were fired towards the western Negev. As 2008 comes to a close, 2,900 rockets have so far been fired at Israel.
Despite a relative lull during July and August, during which an average of five rockets and six mortar shells were launched each month, November saw a steep escalation in violence, with 148 rockets and an additional 85 mortar shells documented.