Tense Calm in Gaza Border Region After Night of Rockets, IDF Strikes

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -
A Palestinian stands near the office of Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh after it was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, Tuesday. (Reuters/Mohammed Salem)

Residents of southern Israel woke to a relatively quiet morning Tuesday, following a night in which dozens of rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip and the IDF struck multiple targets in the Palestinian enclave, though the level of violence appeared to abate after Palestinians said a ceasefire had been reached.

After a day of intense cross-border fighting, Palestinian officials said Egypt had mediated a truce late on Monday. The respite didn’t last long, however, as terrorists continued to fire projectiles through the night, with the IDF saying another 30 rockets were launched between 10 p.m. and 3:15 a.m.

Rocket sirens continued sounding in Israeli towns near the border, sending residents running for shelter. The IDF, which amassed extra troops and tanks along the border, said it struck a Hamas compound and outposts in response.

The latest round of violence began early Monday when seven Israelis were wounded in Moshav Mishmeret when a house was destroyed by a rocket attack. Hours later Israel carried out a wave of retaliatory strikes.

Hamas and smaller Palestinian factions put out a late-night statement that Egypt had mediated a ceasefire. Israeli officials did not comment on whether a truce had been reached.

An explosion caused by Israeli airstrikes is seen from the offices of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, in Gaza City, Monday. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Israel remained on high alert, with schools near the border kept closed and residents instructed to stay near bomb shelters.

The IDF said in a statement it remained “prepared for various scenarios.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu cut short a visit to the United States, saying he would fly home right after meeting President Donald Trump.

“Israel will not tolerate this. I will not tolerate this,” Netanyahu said. “And as we speak … Israel is responding forcefully to this wanton aggression.”

Trump told reporters with Netanyahu at his side that Israel has the “absolute right” to defend itself.

Dozens of explosions had rocked the Palestinian coastal enclave of Gaza on Monday and ambulance sirens echoed in the mostly empty streets. The office of Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh was one of the initial targets hit, although he was likely to have been evacuated in advance.

Gaza militants fired barrages of rockets into Israel late into the night. Some were shot down by Israeli defenses and others landed in empty areas.