Air raid sirens sounded shortly after 10 am on Thursday in the Eshkol Regional Council after a rocket appeared to have been fired towards the region from Gaza. Witnesses said that they saw the rocket exploding in a Palestinian territory. Security services said it was a false alarm.
The incident followed a relatively quiet night in Israel's south. The final Color Red alert sounded in the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council at 22:58, two hours after the ceasefire between Israel and the factions in Gaza went into effect.
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The IDF said that of the 13 projectiles that were fired from Gaza after 9 pm on Wednesday, ten failed to reach Israel, exploding in Palestinian territories instead. The army said Hamas and the Islamic Jihad intended to hold fire and to enforce the truce among the smaller factions across the Strip.
Schools in the south remained closed on Thursday as residents expressed hope the lull will be a long-lasting one.
The authorities in Gaza branded November 22 as a national holiday meant to celebrate the Palestinian groups' "victory." Residents were asked to visit those who were wounded and families of prisoners, and to underscore national unity.
Sources in the IDF said Thursday that Hamas operatives used the morning to come out of their hiding places and begin to estimate the damage that was caused during the operation. Despite the destruction, the army said that the celebrations in Gaza will persist. The IDF's central and south commands braced for "a day of rage" in Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank on Friday, particularly after the day's prayers.
Dozens of IDF units will remain in the Gaza region for at least 24 hours in order to indentify and shoot down possible rocket-launching acitivity. Under the terms of the truce, the army is to respond to any hostile acitivity without delay. Sources said that the policy regarding preemptive strikes meant to thwart attacks has yet to be decided on.
The army is to gradually begin to disperse the combat forces deployed in the region. Regular army activity resumed Thursday. IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz instructed the Home Front Command to aid towns that were damaged by rocket fire.
The IDF started to discharge reserve troops that were called up for the operation on Thursday, and the process is expected to last until the end of the week. The IDF has drafted over 50,000 reserve troops, most of which were not activated due to the government's decision not to mount a ground operation in Gaza.
"Some of us are disappointed, while others trust the leadership's decision," said a commander of a reserve unit that was brought in on Friday."
He said that while none of the reserve troops yearned to fight, if rocket fire continues to target the south, the operation "will have been for naught."
More than 1,500 rockets were fired from Gaza since the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense. Some 875 of the rockets exploded in open areas, and 58 hit urban regions. The Iron Dome intercepted 421 of the projectiles, while 152 exploded in Palestinian territories. Five Israelis – four civilians and a soldier – were killed by the rockets. Hospitals in the south and the center of the country treated some 500 wounded individuals. The IDF, meanwhile, struck over 1,500 terror targets in the Strip.
Yoav Zitun contributed to the report
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