After a morning in which Gaza terrorists hit an Israeli home in Be’er Sheva, with Israel responding by hitting dozens of Hamas positions, Egyptian media reports Wednesday afternoon said that “initial understandings” had been reached between Israel and Hamas for a ceasefire. The ceasefire would be accompanied by further negotiations to ease tensions in the coming days and ensure that the events of Wednesday do not repeat themselves.
The report in the Egyptian A-Rad publication did not give details of the understandings, and it was not at all clear that Israel would accept them at this point, Channel Ten reported. Israel will be seeking not just a moratorium on rocket attacks, but an end to the ongoing rioting at the Gaza border, a cessation of the tire burning by Gazans which has made even breathing difficult for residents of the Gaza border area, and a halt to the balloon and kite terror attacks which were ongoing even on Wednesday; at least three balloons were found in southern Israel Wednesday, following a day in which a dozen fires broke out in various places on Tuesday due to the attacks.
Meeting with U.N. Special Representative to Gaza Nikolai Maldanov, who has been actively pursuing a deal for a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, President Reuven Rivlin said that “Israel will not sit by while its citizens are under attack. The world needs to know this. We will respond with the appropriate force until quiet returns. Men, women and children were forced to spend the night under cover,” Rivlin said of the air raid sirens, which were set off a bit after 3:00 AM, when a rocket hit a house in Beersheva, causing it extensive damage. “As long as Hamas rules in Gaza it is responsible for what happens there.”
Maldanov responded by calling the Be’er Sheva attack “a dangerous escalation of the situation. The time has come for actions, not words. We must see substantive efforts for calm from all sides, otherwise the results will be tragic for everyone.”
The security cabinet is set to meet Wednesday night, upon the return of IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkott from the United States, after he cut short his visit to supervise the army in light of Wednesday’s escalation of tensions. Several ministers – including Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and his rival, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, as well as others, are in favor of a major strike in Gaza that would target Hamas leadership, while Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Eisenkott, and others prefer to give Egyptian and U.N. officials another chance to calm the situation.
Sirens sounded in the Be’er Sheva area early Wednesday, as Gaza terrorists fired two rockets at Israel. One hit in the backyard of a house in Be’er Sheva and the other fell into the sea off the Israeli coast. Several people in Be’er Sheva were treated for injuries sustained as they fell rushing to get into a bomb shelter, while several children were treated for shock. Three of the children were in the home that was damaged when the rocket hit in the backyard, causing heavy damage to the house.
In the wake of the attack, classes in schools and sessions in day care centers in Be’er Sheva and the Gaza border area were cancelled. IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkott, currently on a visit to the United States, is cutting that visit short to more closely supervise the events in Israel. In a press conference Wednesday morning, IDF officials told reporters that the army had hit 20 terror targets after the Be’er Sheva attack, including Hamas terror tunnels, weapons workshops, and the entrance to an underwater terror tunnel.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad denied responsibility for the rocket firing, saying that it was the doing of “rogue groups,” but the IDF spokesperson said Israel did not accept that excuse. “Only two groups in Gaza have rockets capable of reaching that far into Israel, and they are Hamas and Islamic Jihad,” the spokesperson said.