Israel-Hamas cease-fire goes into effect, rockets launched at Israel shortly after


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Minutes after a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas went into effect, five rockets were fired from Gaza at Beersheva and Israel struck the Gaza home of a top Islamic leader.

One of the long-range Grad rockets struck a home  at 9:05 p.m. — five minutes after the cease-fire had gone into effect on Wednesday (2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time) — Israel’s Channel 1 reported. At 9:28 p.m., two rockets fired toward the Eshkol Regional Council landed in open areas.

In between, Israel hit the Islamic Jihad leader’s home in Khan Younis, but the Israel Defense Forces claimed the strike was carried out before the cease-fire went into effect. Hamas claimed it occurred afterward.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr announced the agreement on Wednesday evening in Cairo.

Prior to the announcement, President Obama spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who accepted Obama’s recommendation to give the Egyptian cease-fire proposal a chance to work. 

Obama reiterated his commitment to Israel’s security and made clear that no country can be expected to tolerate rocket attacks against civilians, according to the White House. He also commended Netanyahu for agreeing to the Egyptian cease-fire proposal while reiterating that Israel maintains the right to defend itself. Obama told Netanyahu that he was committed to seeking additional funding for Iron Dome and other U.S.-Israel missile defense programs.

Clinton called the cease-fire agreement a “critical moment for the region” and praised Egypt for its leadership on the agreement. She said the next steps include moving toward a comprehensive peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

According to the agreement, “Israel shall stop all hostilities in the Gaza Strip land sea and air, including incursions and targeting of individuals.” And “All Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel, including rocket attacks and all attacks along the border.

The agreement also calls for “Opening the crossings and facilitating the movement of people and transfer of goods and refraining from restricting residents’ free movements and targeting residents in border areas.” 

Netanyahu addressed the nation as the cease-fire went into effect.

“Eight days ago Israel launched an operation after terror attacks from Gaza escalated. I announced that … our response will take a toll on the terror groups,” he said. With several major terrorist commanders eliminated and weapons infrastructure destroyed, “we have decided to give cease-fire a chance.”

Netanyahu, however, did not rule out a more intensive operation in Gaza in the future.  

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the goals of Operation Pillar of Defense, including weakening Hamas and Islamic Jihad, were met.

Six Israelis and more than 140 Palestinians have been reported killed since Israel launched the operation on Nov. 14 with the assassination of Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari. An Israeli army reservist was killed Wednesday in an attack on the Eshkol Regional Council.

The assassination of Jabari followed several days of intense rocket bombardment on southern Israel, and Hamas stepped up its rocket fire against Israel following the operation’s launch. Hamas missiles have reached as far as the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv areas nearly 50 miles away. On Wednesday, terrorists detonated a bomb aboard a bus in central Tel Aviv, wounding 21 people.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, nearly 1,500 rockets have been fired from Gaza toward Israel since the beginning of the operation, with some falling in Gaza territory. Some 421 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

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