Militants in the Gaza Strip fired six rockets into southern Israel on Thursday, hours after an Egyptian-mediated truce went into effect in the three-day escalation of violence that killed 34 Palestinians, including eight children and three women.
Before the ceasefire was reached with Islamic Jihad, a pre-dawn Israeli airstrike killed eight members of the same family in Gaza. Among them were five children, the youngest 7 years old.
The terror group claimed no link to the family and the Israeli military offered no details on the strike.
The heaviest round of fighting in months erupted Tuesday after Israel targeted the Iranian-backed militant group’s top commander, Baha Abu Al-Atta, who was killed along with his wife inside their home in the Gaza Strip.
According to Israel, Abu Al-Atta was responsible for rocket fire at Israel as well as other attacks and was planning more violence, with the military calling him a “ticking bomb.”
Israel hailed the operation as a victory, defending its policy of targeting militants in their homes despite civilian casualties and vowing to continue the tactic.
Late Wednesday, Islamic Jihad leader Ziad al-Nakhalah announced three conditions for a truce: an end to targeted killings, a halt in Israeli shootings of protesters at weekly demonstrations along the Israeli border and easing a 12-year-old Israeli blockade that has devastated Gaza’s economy.
An Israeli military spokesman tweeted that the Gaza operation “is over” at 5:30 a.m. local time, when some restrictions were lifted on residents of southern Israel and traffic returned to the streets of Gaza.
But after hours of calm, a volley of five rockets set off air raid sirens in southern Israel. No group claimed responsibility, and Israel did not immediately respond.
Sirens sounded again late Thursday, when a rocket fired from Gaza was intercepted by the Israeli Iron Dome missile-defense system, the military said.
At least three people were lightly wounded from shrapnel or shattered glass propelled by the rockets, most of which landed in open areas or were shot down by the defense system.
Touring an Iron Dome command center Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “the goals of the operation have now been fully achieved.”
“Our enemies received the message … We can reach everyone, even in their bed. I hope that this lesson will be learned,” he added, referring to Israel’s pinpoint strike on Abu al-Ata.
Since Tuesday, Islamic Jihad fired some 450 rockets toward Israel, which retaliated with scores of airstrikes. However, Gaza’s ruling Hamas stayed out of the latest escalation, adhering to understandings brokered by Egypt after earlier waves of violence.
The Israel Defense Forces claimed it had killed about 25 militants and struck a major blow to Islamic Jihad facilities.
The Abu Malhous family lost eight members when Israeli jet fighters dropped at least two bombs on their tin-roofed home in Deir al-Balah, in central Gaza.
Neighbors said an Islamic Jihad commander lived in the home that was targeted Thursday but was not there when it was struck.
Instead, his brother and seven other relatives were killed. None of them were affiliated with the militant group, according to neighbors who spoke on condition of anonymity.
IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus had no information about the airstrike, but said Islamic Jihad commanders store weapons in their homes, making them legitimate targets.
“All of our operations were measured, proportionate and focused only on military assets belonging to the Islamic Jihad,” he said.
With Post wires
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