GAZA CITY, GAZA STRIP (AP) – Gaza militants fired a barrage of rockets into Israel yesterday, hours after a cease-fire was declared to end two days of intense fighting between Israel and Palestine’s militant group, the heaviest escalation in months that killed at least 34 Palestinians, including three women and eight children, and paralysed parts of Israel.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the new wave of rockets and it wasn’t clear how this would affect the fate of the cease-fire. Israel had hailed the Gaza operation as a victory, defending its policy of targetting militants in their homes despite civilian deaths and vowed to continue the tactic.
The Palestine’s militant group said it had succeeded in getting Israel to agree to a cease-fire based on several demands, including a halt to Israeli targetted killings of the group’s leaders.
Militant spokesman Musab al-Berim said the Egyptian-brokered deal went into effect at 5.30am. An Israeli military spokesman tweeted that the Gaza operation “is over”. Some restrictions were lifted on residents of southern Israel and traffic returned to the streets of the Palestinian coastal territory.
But after hours of calm, a barrage of rockets blasted out of the territory, setting off air raid sirens in southern Israel and testing the fragile truce.
The fighting first erupted early on Tuesday after Israel killed a senior commander of the militant group who was said to be behind a string of rocket attacks and who Israel said was believed to be planning a cross-border infiltration.
The rare targetted killing by Israel sparked the heaviest fighting with Gaza militants since May. The militant group fired some 450 rockets toward Israel, while Israel responded with scores of airstrikes.Gaza’s ruling Hamas militant group stayed out of the latest escalation – an indication it would be brief.