IDF forces identified the launching of a Qassam rocket toward Sderot at around 7 a.m. Sunday. During the morning hours several more rockets were fired – one toward Sderot and another toward the surrounding western Negev area. Army officials said a total of six rocket launchings were identified, adding that all of the rockets landed in open areas.
No injuries were reported.
One rocket landed in the western Negev during Internal Minister Avi Dichter’s visit to Kibbutz Nir Am; the “Color Red” alert system during a meeting between Dichter and kibbutz members, and a load explosion was heard nearby shortly thereafter.
IDF forces withdrew from Gaza early Sunday, this after the agreed upon truce went into effect at 6 a.m.
The Al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, have claimed responsibility for Sunday's rocket attacks, saying they were carried out in protest of “Israel’s crimes” and that “there is no point in discussing a ceasefire as long as the Israeli offensive continues.”
Later the armed wing of the ruling Hamas group, the Izz el-Din al-Qassam Brigades, said it had fired two rockets at Israeli targets from Gaza after the start of a ceasefire, saying this was because some Israeli troops were still in the strip.
Leaving Gaza (Photo: AP)
Islamic Jihad was the first armed Palestinian faction to notify Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that its gunmen would refrain from launching Qassams should Israel halt its attacks on the Strip.
Shortly before the ceasefire two Qassam rockets landed in Sderot; no injuries were reported but damage was done to a building; four additional Qassams landed in open fields in the Negev region during the night.
Education Minister Yuli Tamir, who is visiting Sderot, said regarding the ceasefire breaches that she hopes the Palestinians would control the various factions, adding, “This is a common interest for everyone, but if the firing persists – we will not be able to ignore it”
Earlier the IDF Spokesperson’s Office announced that army forces left north Gaza ahead of the ceasefire declared by the armed Palestinian factions. The groups agreed to a unilateral ceasefire during talks with Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, Minister for the Interior Said Sayyam, the mediator between Hamas and Fatah on the formation of a national unity government Dr. Moustafa Barghouti.
It was also decided that should Israel fail to stop military incursions into Gaza, the groups would meet to decide whether to renew Qassam attacks.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz was to hold a meeting Sunday morning with security establishment senior officials in order to discuss the significance of a ceasefire declared Saturday night by Palestinian parties.
Peretz said that attempts by Palestinian gunmen to fire rockets against Israel will be interpreted as violations of the ceasefire and will be dealt with accordingly.
"If Abu Mazen (President Abbas) and his associates in the ceasefire are unable to impose the ceasefire on the factions, Israel will see in that a violation of the ceasefire and will act to protect its citizens," he said.
Abbas spoke with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Saturday evening and informed him that as of 6 a.m. Sunday morning, the Palestinian armed factions will cease firing Qassam rockets at Israel.
Olmert accepted the ceasefire proposal and said that if the Palestinians abide by the truce, Israel will halt military operations in Gaza.
Sderot residents burned tires at the entrance to the city in protest of the Qassam fire, and more demonstrations are expected throughout the day.
White House spokesman Alex Conant said Saturday evening “We welcome the announcement and see this as a positive step forward; we hope it leads to less violence for the Israeli and Palestinian people."
Hanan Greenberg contributed to the report