Israeli aircraft attacked a rocket-launching cell in north Gaza Sunday morning. The army said forces identified a hit. According to sources in the Hamas-ruled territory, two Palestinians were killed and three others were wounded in the strike, one of them seriously.
The sources said the terrorists were travelling in the Jabaliya area when a missile fired from an Israeli warplane struck their vehicle. The IDF said they were making their way from Beit Hanoun, located in the northeastern part of the Strip, to Gaza City.
Gaza's rescue and emergency services spokesman Adham Abu Salmiya confirmed that the five terror cell members had been hit.
Islamic Jihad said those killed in the strike were members of its armed wing, the Al-Quds Brigades.
The terror group said it would respond "at the right place and the right time."
Referring to the rocket fire towards southern Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel "will not tolerate an attack on its civilians."
Speaking at the opening of Sunday's cabinet meeting, the prime minister added, "In the past two weeks there have been elements that have been trying to violate the calm and security. We have no interest in escalating the situation, but will not hesitate employing the IDF force."
Senior Islamic Jihad figure Khalid Al-Batash announced Sunday that his organization was committed to maintaining a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, according to a decision reached by the heads of the Palestinian factions on Saturday.
However, al-Batash stressed that the ceasefire hinges on "Israel ceasing its aggression."
Faction heads meet in Gaza (Photo: AFP)
Islamic Jihad was responsible for most of the rocket and mortar fire directed at Israel in the past few days.
The London-based Arabic newspaper Al Hayat quoted another Islamic Jihad figure as saying that his organization is not interested in a war with Israel and that the recent rocket attacks on the Jewish state were a response to "Israeli aggression in Gaza."
On Saturday armed Palestinian organizations in Gaza said they would agree to a ceasefire if Israel halted its attacks in Gaza.
Israel has said it does not want the violence to escalate.
Meanwhile, a new defense system meant to protect southern Israel from Gaza terrorists' rockets will go into operation on Sunday, the Israeli military said, after weeks of stepped-up rocket and mortar attacks that have drawn fears of renewed war.
No full protectionIsraeli defense officials' earlier failures to deploy the $200 million Iron Dome anti-rocket system against the Palestinian attacks had raised many questions in Israel about its effectiveness. Home Front Minister Matan Vilnai told Army Radio on Sunday that even once it was deployed, the Iron Dome would still not provide full protection to residents of Israel's south.
The Iron Dome will begin operating Sunday in the area of Beersheba, southern Israel's largest city, the military said. A second missile battery will be deployed soon in another large southern city, Ashdod, the military added, without specifying an exact date.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced last week that the new system was being put into place but gave no exact date for when it would start operating.
Israel developed the system to protect itself from short-range rockets used against it by Palestinian militants to its south in Gaza and Hezbollah guerrillas to the north in Lebanon.
Millions of Israeli civilians are within rocket range.
The Iron Dome system uses cameras and radar to track incoming rockets and is supposed to shoot them down within seconds of their launch.
Palestinian terrorists fired three rockets towards Israel's Negev region over the weekend. There were no reports of injury or damage.
The renewed violence had fed concerns of a repeat of Israel's December 2008 invasion of Gaza in response to years of rocket and mortar barrages on its southern communities.
Elior Levy, AP, Ronen Medzini contributed to the report
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