The Iron Dome anti-missile system shot down five Gaza rockets Saturday evening, shortly after Hamas declared that a southern truce will go into effect gradually.
A ceasefire between Gaza Strip factions and Israel
will go into effect Saturday night following Egyptian mediation efforts, senior Hamas
man Ayman Taha initially said in an interview with a Palestinian television station Saturday evening. Later he said that the lull has no set date and will be implemented gradually.
Rocket barrage from Gaza injures 1
- 1 dead in IDF strike; Hamas threatens Israel
A short while after the announcement, Iron Dome intercepted five Gaza rockets fired at populated areas in the southern town of Ashkelon. A siren was activated in the city around 9:20 pm and local residents reported hearing explosions.
Earlier in the day, Iron Dome shot down five other rockets fired from Gaza. The IDF said some 150 rockets landed in Israel so far during the latest round of fighting in the south.
Notably, Hamas has already violated a truce agreement reached Thursday. Before Saturday's ceasefire announcement, Hamas' Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades published a Hebrew-language video, threatening to escalate the fighting and warning that the group will "crush" Israel.
"If the last rounds were not enough to deliver the message ... we are ready to crush the enemy and to curb its arrogance and to respond to aggression in a strong way," the group said in a statement earlier.
Hamas' statements followed several days of fighting in the south, with Israeli communities sustaining dozens of rockets fired by Gaza terrorists. Meanwhile, the IDF
launched several strikes on terror targets in the Strip, killing at least 13 Palestinians in recent days.
Earlier Saturday, Israeli defense officials said that quiet in Gaza will be met with quiet, but denied that ceasefire negotiations were underway or that a truce deal was achieved.
Also on Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a situation assessment with military and defense officials on the escalating attacks on southern Israel, instructing them to continue operating intensively to keep residents of southern Israel safe.
Elior Levy, Neri Brener, AP and Attila Somfalvi contributed to the story