Israel pounds tunnel network in Gaza as Hamas keeps up rocket fire

IDF says the strikes also targeted head of Hamas military wing, who escaped 7 assassination attempts in the past, but they was unsuccessful; meanwhile, ceasefire talks stalled over Hamas demands to condition end of fighting on Jerusalem situation.

Israel heavily bombarded the network of underground attack tunnels in Gaza and Palestinian militants kept up cross-border rocket fire on Wednesday, with no firm sign of any imminent ceasefire despite international calls to end more than a week of fighting.

Israeli leaders said they were pressing on with an offensive against Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but an Israeli military spokesman acknowledged that with an estimated 12,000 missiles and mortars in the groups’ Gaza arsenal, “they still have enough rockets to fire”.

IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Hadai Zilberman on Wednesday morning said that 15 kilometers (7.45 miles) of the so-called “metro” of attack tunnels came under strikes by 52 planes, dropping 122 bombs over a 25-minute period in the southern part of the Strip.

IDF said the tunnels were used to launch rockets at the south and enable the movement of terrorists and weapons from inside the Strip to the sea.

The spokesperson added that after all targets in the Rimal neighborhood in Gaza City were “exhausted” on Tuesday, the overnight strikes were concentrated in Khan Yunis and Raffa, from where rockets were fired at Be’er Sheva and other southern cities and communities.

“We hit command centers, offices of the Internal Security Services and the headquarters of the Islamic Jihad,” Zilberman said, adding that at least 10 members of both the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad were killed.

Since the beginning of the fighting, more than 100 Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives were killed.

Mohammed Deif, head of the Hamas military wing and the IDF’s most wanted Hamas official, has survived two attacks directed against him, according to the military.

Deif was hiding deep underground and his bunker was attacked from different directions using a variety of weapons but Israeli forces were unable to kill him. Over the years, Deif apparently survived at least seven attempts on his life, which left him disabled.

Seven other members of Hamas were also targeted by the military, some were injured but all survived, the spokesperson said.

In the meantime, rocket fire from Gaza late Tuesday targeted south-central Israel, including the cities of Rehovot and Ness Ziona. Hamas said it was aiming its fire at six air force bases from where Israeli jets take off to strike Gaza.

Hamas fire on southern communities resumed early Wednesday, shortly before 6am.

Meanwhile, efforts to bring about a ceasefire were reported by the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya network late on Tuesday. According to the report, Egypt proposed a cessation of fighting as of 6am on Thursday.

Egypt asked for a temporary lull to allow humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip and enable the evacuation of wounded out for treatment. Sources in Gaza said the terror factions were prepared to accept the Egyptian offer.

But a Hamas statement released on Tuesday denied the reports. “Efforts are underway to bring about an end to the fighting and our demands are known,” the statement said.

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Gaza ceasefire apparently in place after violent flare-up that claimed four Israeli lives

Army lifts all restrictions on communities bordering Hamas-ruled enclave following days of heavy fire that saw more than 700 rockets launched at southern, central Israel; 23 Palestinians also killed; mobilized IDF troops still deployed along border
Palestinian officials said an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire agreement was reached with Israel on Monday to end a recent surge of border violence, which saw some 700 rockets fired by Gaza militants into Israeli territory, the bloodiest fighting between the two sides since a 50-day 2014 war.
There was no official ceasefire announcement from either side, but the intense fighting over the past two days appeared to come to a sudden halt in the early morning hours, and Israeli military later said it lifted all protective restrictions on residents in southern Israel. Nevertheless, IDF troops continue to mass at along the Gaza border in preparation for a possible renewal of hostilities.
In the latest round-up of border fighting, which erupted over the weekend, Palestinian militants fired more than 700 rockets into Israel, killing four Israeli civilians, the first Israeli fatalities from rocket fire since 2014 Operation Protective Edge. The Israeli military responded with airstrikes on some 320 targets inside Gaza, which Palestinian medical officials say killed 23 people. IDF said most of those killed in their strikes were militants.

“The ceasefire understanding will begin Monday 04:30,” a Palestinian official familiar with the agreement said. A second Palestinian official confirmed that a deal was reached, as well a TV station belonging to Hamas, Gaza’s Islamist rulers.

The Israeli military confirmed its decision Monday morning, saying: “As of 7 a.m., all protective restrictions in the home front will be lifted.” Schools and roads had been closed, and residents had been encouraged to remain indoors and near bomb shelters as intense rocket fire pounded the area.

Sources in the Gaza Strip say the Palestinian factions are committed to the ceasefire as long as Israel fulfils its part of the agreement reached. Sources added that Hamas has received guarantees from the Egyptian mediators that Israel will transfer to Gaza millions of Qatari financial aid and open the border crossing for entrance of goods and humanitarian aid to the Strip. Israel, for the their part, apparently said the renewal of any type of border violence will affect the term of the agreement.

Egyptian mediators had been working with the United Nations to broker a ceasefire. Under past Egyptian-brokered deals, Israel has agreed to ease a blockade of Gaza in exchange for a halt to rocket fire.

The latest fighting broke out after Palestinian militants accused Israel of not honoring an earlier ceasefire deal from March.

The article was published on Ynet