Israel Air Force fighter jets shelled a location in northern Gaza Strip Friday, believed to be a terror hub. The military confirmed hitting its target. Palestinian sources reported that three people were injured by IDF tank fire near an airport in the southern Gaza Strip.
Fearing harsh IDF retaliation following Thursday's missile attacks on Israeli communities, Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip declared a ceasefire as of 11 pm Thursday. The announcement came on the heels of a rocket salvo, as 45 rockets were fired from the Strip into Israel throughout the day, as well as an anti-tank missile attack on an Israeli school bus that left a teenager critically wounded.
Despite the Palestinian declaration, the army bombed Gaza for the 10th time Thursday, around midnight, targeting smuggling tunnels in Rafah. IDF officials confirmed the strike and said the army is preparing for further retaliation for Thursday’s barrage of rockets.
Earlier, a Palestinian source associated with Islamic Jihad said that the decision to declare a truce followed consultations with Arab officials around the world. Another source said the ceasefire annoucement was a product of indirect negotiations with Israel.
However, at this time it appears that the IDF is preparing to launch additional strikes in Gaza overnight and possibly throughout the weekend, military sources said. Officials said the army has known of Hamas' plan to carry out a major attack but added that they were surprised that it was aimed at a school bus carrying children.
Some Israeli officials estimated that Hamas originally sought a military target Thursday but could not find one, therefore choosing to fire a missile at a school bus.
However, the army is apparently not preparing for a second Operation Cast Lead that would include a major incursion into the Strip. Officials said that they wanted to avoid further escalation in the south that will disrupt the lives of residents.
Earlier Thursday, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing, claimed responsibility for the attack on the school bus. The group said the strike was a response to the killing of three Hamas men over the weekend. Israel said the three were planning to abduct Israeli civilians.
The rocket barrages from Gaza began Thursday at 3:20 pm, when a bus carrying students home from school in Shaar Hanegev Regional Council was hit by an anti-tank missile. A 16-year-old boy sustained critical head trauma and is currently hospitalized in intensive care. The bus driver was also lightly injured.
In response to the terror attack, Air Force aircraft bombed targets in the Gaza Strip, hitting a
terror cell responsible for rocket attacks on Ashkelon as well as another cell firing mortar shells. Five Palestinians were killed and 33 injured, according to medics in the Strip.
Meanwhile, a barrage of rockets rained down on the south, but no additional injuries were reported.
At least one of the rockets was intercepted above Ashkelon by the newly installed Iron Dome system at around 6 pm. Army officials praised the system, saying it had made history with its first-ever interception.
Elior Levy contributed to this report