By Deborah Danan
TEL AVIV – More than 60 rockets were fired at Israel’s south overnight Tuesday from the Gaza Strip, despite an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, with Israel retaliating by striking dozens of terror targets in the coastal enclave.
Gaza-ruling terror group Hamas said it had accepted the ceasefire called for 10pm. However, rockets continued to pummel Israel well into the night, with the Iron Dome intercepting some of the missiles, while the rest landed in open areas. Air raid sirens pierced the night as thousands of residents fled to bomb shelters. One house in the southern town of Sderot sustained a direct hit by a projectile but no injuries were reported.
WATCH AND LISTEN: Hamas fires a barrage of rockets at Israeli civilians last night. pic.twitter.com/iUrD9LxXBx
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) March 26, 2019
On Tuesday morning, relative calm had been restored to the area. Nevertheless, schools in the southern region remained closed.
According to the IDF Spokesperson’s unit, IDF fighter jets, combat helicopters, tanks and naval vehicles struck a Hamas military compound in Dir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip as well as a military site belonging to Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Beit Lahiya in the Strip’s northern region.
“The Hamas terrorist organization is responsible for all the goings on in and out of the Gaza Strip. The IDF is determined to carry out the task of protecting the citizens of Israel and is prepared for various scenarios and intensifying its operations as necessary,” the unit said.
IDF tanks and attack helicopters also targeted several Hamas military posts near the Gaza security fence.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew back from the U.S. during the night, heading straight to IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv to supervise the response to Hamas’ aggression the day before. He cut his trip short after meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House and overseeing the signing of a presidential order recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
“We gave a very powerful response. Hamas needs to know that we won’t hesitate to go in [to Gaza] and take any required steps,” Netanyahu said.
He added that the upcoming Israeli elections would not have any bearing on Israel’s actions regarding Gaza. “This is unrelated to anything, not to any date, but only to Israel’s security needs.”
On Monday, Israel struck dozens of Hamas targets, including the office of leader Ismail Haniyeh. A three-story building serving as Hamas’ “secret headquarters” was also struck in an air raid, the IDF said.
Three Palestinians were wounded in the strikes and evacuated to al-Shifa hospital, the Palestinian WAFA news wire reported.
The Israeli strikes were in response to a rocket attack earlier that day that leveled a home in central Israel, injuring seven people, including three children.
The rocket caused the building to catch fire, burning the structure to the ground.
The J-80 rocket, which has a range of 120 km (75 miles), was the third long-range rocket fired from Gaza in two weeks and traveled the longest distance of any Gaza-launched rocket since 2014’s summer conflict. As with the other two rockets over the past month, Hamas said Monday’s rocket was launched by mistake. It was fired from a Hamas launchpad in the southern Gaza town of Rafah, IDF Spokesperson Ronen Manelis said.
The IDF did not directly comment on Iron Dome’s failure to intercept the rocket, but seemed to suggest it was because the missile defense battery was not deployed in the area that the rocket struck.