The Israeli Air Force (IAF) responded to over 20 rockets fired on Israel from Gaza on Friday, launching attacks on terrorist targets inside Gaza. The IDF Spokesperson Lt. Colonel Peter Lerner confirmed that 3 targets had been struck in the south of the Gaza Strip.
A rocket from Gaza landed in a Kibbutz in southern Israel Friday afternoon causing minor damage to several buildings while no injuries were reported as a result of the attack.
Exactly 25 rockets have so far been fired on Israel since midnight on Thursday and southern council leaders warned residents to stay within 15 seconds from bomb shelters.
More than five more rockets landed in open areas in the Eshkol Regional Council after the IAF response had already taken place.
Meanwhile, IDF forces identified two Palestinians next to the border fence of central Gaza as they attempted to place in improvised explosive device along the fence. The soldiers opened fire and hit at least one of the perpetrators.
Earlier, the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system shot down two incoming rockets over the southern town of Ofakim Friday afternoon, while another fell in an open area. Several mortar rounds were also fired toward Keren Shalom, but only one fell in Israeli territory.
|Code red sirens in Ofakim (Video: Shlomi Amar)|
Code red sirens were also heard in the Eshkol Regional Council where two more rockets fell in open areas. Another rocket landed in Eshkol near the border fence. No injuries were reported after any of the fire of the Gaza.
The afternoon rockets were the first to strike Israel since attacks earlier Friday morning. A BBC report surfaced in the early afternoon that Israel and Hamas had reached a ceasefire agreement that would put an end to the recent escalation in southern Israel, citing an unnamed source in Hamas.
A civilian living in the kibbutz where a rocket caused damage recounted his experience saying, "We were sitting in the living room. Even our adult children came to visit us and we were watching tennis on the television."
"The house was closed because we had the air conditioning on and we didn't hear the code red siren," he continued. "Then all of a sudden there was a crazy explosion and the entire house shook. We immediately understood that the rocket had fallen nearby."
"We went out and saw the damage caused to vehicles and the holes that the Shrapnel has caused. They're talking about a cease fire or relaxation but in the meantime that's not what it looks like."
The current rocket fire on southern Israel could threaten any cease fire agreement however, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apparently contacted Hamas through back-channels and said that calm would be met with calm, but also warned that if the situation in Gaza escalates, the IDF will severely hit Hamas and launch a significant operation in the Strip.
The sentiments appeared to be in action in the field Friday and no IDF retaliation to rocket fire was reported.
Howver, there was significant troop movement toward the Gaza border Thursday night which including extra rockets for Iron Dome that would be needed to protect Israeli cities in the case of a military operation in Gaza.
The Director of the Eshkol Regional Council, Chaim Yelin responded to the rocket fire saying, "Since the talk of a cease fire began, six rockets have exploded in the Eshkol Region. I call on the Security Cabinet to stop the rocket fire, no with words, but with action. The residents of the Eshkol region also deserve a peaceful Shabbat."
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman slammed the reports of a looming ceasefire as he visited the rocket-battered town of Sderot. Lieberman said that "I object to this move, we are making a serious mistake. The message that 'calm will be met with calm' is misleading.
"We need to put our hands on those supporting and encouraging terror, this includes (Hamas leaders) Khaled Mashal and Ismail Haniyeh. They need to know they are a target."
Lieberman explained his position by decrying Hamas, saying "while we talk about a ceasefire, Hamas continues to develop missiles that can reach Tel Aviv. All we are doing is postponing the problem and not finding a solution. This is not the answer we need to be giving Hamas."
Matan Tzuri and Yoav Zitun contributed to this report.