Rocket barrages hit central, southern Israel amid ceasefire efforts
Strikes directed at Rehovot, Yavne and other cities come shortly after attacks on southern cities, Gaza border communities and as IDF confirms fresh wave of attacks on Islamic Jihad in Gaza; terror group sets out truce demands for Israel
Heavy rocket barrage were fired at cities in central Israel late Wednesday even as the IDF said it was striking targets in Gaza. Meanwhile, the UN and Egypt continued efforts to reach a ceasefire agreement and Islamic Jihad laid out its terms for such a truce.
Sirens were heard in Rehovot, Gedera and Yavne as well as in Ashdod further south shortly after 11pm. The Magen David Adom emergency service said it had so far not received any reports of injuries in the wake of the attacks.
"At this time, the IDF is renewing its attacks on Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip," the military said at around the same time.
The wave of rockets came soon after barrages were fired at Ashkelon and Ashdod and Gaza border communities.
The Magen David Adom reported that no one was hurt as a result of the rockets. Police forces were called to a scene in Ashdod, where rocket shrapnel hit very close to a residential building. Iron Dome intercepted at least five rockets.
The current round of violence began early Tuesday, with a predawn Israeli strike in Gaza that killed Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata. The organization vowed revenge and while Hamas expressed its solidarity, by Wednesday night it had yet to engage in the fighting.
The rocket attacks on Israel followed soon after Abu al-Ata's killing, and on Tuesday the south and large parts of the center of the country came close to a standstill as schools were closed and all non-essential workers were told to stay home or near a bomb shelter.
Rockets were intercepted by Iron Dome as far north as Tel Aviv, with attacks also targeting nearby cities of Holon and Rishon Lezion. The army said Tuesday that the missile defense system had had a 90% success rate.
The rocket fire continued Wednesday morning after an overnight lull.
On Wednesday evening, an elderly woman was moderately hurt in a rocket strike on an assisted living facility in Ashkelon.
The woman was taken to Barzilai Hospital in the city, where she was treated for injuries caused by flying glass, said Magen David Adom medic Dvir Baribo.
"When we arrived at the scene, we found a woman in her 70s who was fully conscious. There were many shards of shattered glass around," said Baribo.
"She suffered minor injuries to the face and limbs. We gave her primary medical treatment which included bandaging and stopping the bleeding and we evacuated her in moderate and stable condition to Barzilai Hospital."
Police sealed the area and staff from the Social Welfare and Social Services Departments were on the scene providing assistance.
The military said Wednesday that more than 250 rockets had been fired at Israeli population centers since the violence began Tuesday morning.
The rocket fire brought life in much of Israel to a standstill again Wednesday, as schools remained closed in communities near the Gaza border and restrictions on the size of public gatherings continued as the rockets rained down.
But talk of ceasefire continued Wednesday night as Islamic Jihad leader Ziyad al-Nakhalah outlined his organization's terms for a ceasefire with Israel.
"We set clear conditions for Israel," he told Lebanon's pro-Hezbollah Al Mayadeen channel.
"An end to targeted killings in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, an end to attacks on civilians during the March of Return protests (Friday demonstrations along the Gaza border fence that often turn violent) and a commitment to abide by (existing) agreements pertaining to Gaza."
If Israel meets these terms, Nakhalah said, "a ceasefire could take effect within days or even hours."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a special cabinet meeting earlier Wednesday that Israel has no interest in sparking a wider confrontation but warned Islamic Jihad that Israel would keep pounding its members until the rockets stop.
"They know we will continue to strike them without mercy," Netanyahu said. "They have one choice: either stop these attacks or absorb more and more blows."
No Israeli deaths have been caused by the rockets attacks, mostly thanks to the Iron Dome missile defense system, which Israel says has intercepted some 90% of the projectiles. A few homes suffered direct strikes, though, and there was a near miss on a major highway, where a rocket crashed down just after a vehicle had passed.
Seeking to keep the outburst under control, the Israeli military has restricted its operations to Islamic Jihad, and nearly all the Gaza casualties so far have been members of the militant group.
Gaza's Hamas rulers have yet
to enter the fray -- a possible sign the current round of violence could be brief. Although larger and more powerful than Islamic Jihad, Hamas is also more pragmatic.
With Gaza's economy in tatters, it appears to have little desire for more fighting with Israel.