Several rockets were launched from Gaza toward south Israel after 9 pm Wednesday, when the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel took effect. The IDF held its fire.
Air raid sirens were heard after 9 pm in Eshkol, Sderot and the Hof Ashkelon and Sha'ar Hanegev regional councils. Rockets landed in the Eshkol and Sha'ar Hanegev regional councils, but there were no reports of injury or damage.
Sirens were sounded in Ashdod, Kiryat Malachi and surrounding communities shortly after 10 pm. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted one rocket over Ashdod. Around 10:30 pm sirens were heard in Ashdod, Gan Yave and Gedera.
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IDF Spokesman Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai confirmed that the ceasefire had taken effect at 9 pm in accordance with the political echelon's instructions. "The IDF has stopped firing at the Strip and will open fire only if our forces are put in danger," he said.
The IDF spokesman added that a decision on whether to release the reserve forces would be made on Thursday.
Iron Dome intercepts rocket Wednesday night (Photo: Avi Rokach)
"The operation's goals have been achieved. Hamas suffered a serious blow and is in a great amount of distress. After the organization's leaders come out from their hiding places, they will see the extent of destruction. We understand from intelligence sources that Hamas is in distress."
According to Mordechai, time will tell what the deterrence did to Hamas. "We'll know within weeks or months. The chief of staff is in the south, issuing orders to the forces. We are alert and ready."
IDF strike in Gaza shortly before truce took effect (Photo: Getyimages)
Hamas said that it has officially ordered its military wing to stop firing projectiles on Israel, but rockets continued to be fired from Gaza towards the south of the country after the ceasefire took effect.
A Grad rocket that was fired towards Beersheba at around 8 pm Wednesday hit a house, but there no reports of injury. At least five rockets were fired toward the southern city shortly after Egypt declared that a truce between Israel and Hamas will go into effect at 9 pm. Rockets also landed in Netivot and Ashkelon.
Direct on on Beersheba house, Wednesday night (Photo: Herzl Yosef)
Later, additional rockets were fired toward Ashdod, Netivot, Beer Tuvia and the Bnei Shimon and Hof Ashkelon regional councils. Some of the rockets landed in open areas, while others were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
It was further reported that a projectile exploded in an open area on the Israel-Egypt border. The IDF estimates that the rocket was fired from Sinai. No injuries were reported.
The IDF responded to the rocket barrage with heavy artillery fire and aerial strikes. Palestinian sources in Gaza said one person was killed and eight others were injured.
Earlier, Egypt announced that a ceasefire had been reached to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Heavy rocket barrages on south Israel followed the announcement, but there were no reports of injury.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr made the announcement in a joint news conference with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The ceasefire would come into effect at 9 pm, Amr said.
"These efforts ... have resulted in understandings to cease fire and restore calm and halt the bloodshed that the last period has seen," Amr said.
The deal was brokered by the new Islamist government of Egypt, solidifying its role as a leader in the quickly shifting Middle East. Under the agreement, Egypt will play a key role in maintaining the peace.
Clinton said the ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza had come at a crucial time for countries of the Middle East.
"This is a critical moment for the region. Egypt's new government is assuming the responsibility and leadership that has long made this country a cornerstone for regional stability and peace," she said at the joint news conference with her Egyptian counterpart.
Also on Wednesday, six people – including five soldiers – were injured in a rocket attack on the Eshkol Regional Council. One of the soldiers was critically injured. There rest sustained light to moderate wounds.
IDF forces remain on high alert on the border for the time being, and it appears that the army fears that is it just a matter of time before the next round of violence breaks out. The security establishment hopes the severe blows the Air Force dealt Hamas and Islamic Jihad during the eight days of Operation Pillar of Defense will result in a period of calm, but security officials have no doubt that the rocket and mortar fire on south Israel will continue in the coming days.
The army fears that armed Palestinian groups competing with Hamas for supremacy in Gaza – particularly Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees and Salafi terrorists – will seek to ignite the region by launching rockets.
The army destroyed most of Hamas' long-range rockets, but it still possesses thousands of short and mid-range rockets. Hamas had some 10,000 rockets before the operation and it launched some 1,500 of them. The IDF destroyed some 1,000 rocket launchers.
Israeli politicians also expect that the fighting with Hamas will resume at some point. "There will be more rounds of violence," one official said. "The question is whether we succeeded in delaying the next round. The conflict is not over.
"Another question is how we detach Gaza's dependence on Israel. We provide them with electricity and water – this responsibility should be handed over to the Egyptians," he added. "This should be Israel's goal."
Yoav Zitun, Attila Somfalvi contributed to the report
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