Several rockets were fired from Gaza at Israel early Sunday, officials said, marking a likely setback hours after the sides appeared to be headed for an unofficial truce following a day of low-level violence along the border.
There were no reports of injuries or damage from the rocket fire, the Eshkol Regional Council said in a statement.The Israel Defense Forces said five rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza after sirens sounded in the Eshkol region adjacent to the southern Gaza Strip at about 12:40 a.m.
The Israel Defense Forces said five rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza after sirens sounded in the Eshkol region adjacent to the southern Gaza Strip at about 12:40 a.m.
Explosions had been heard and “rocket strikes had been pinpointed to open areas,” the regional council said. It said searches were underway to locate the fired munitions.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility from Gaza.
The strikes would appear to be the first rocket fire since a round of heavy fighting waned on Wednesday, following a flareup sparked when a rocket hit a home in central Israel, injuring seven people.
The renewed fire will likely place a damper on efforts between the sides to mediate a truce, after both sides expressed satisfaction with a relative lack of violence during large protests along the border Saturday, leading to hopes that understandings could be reached soon. It may also put the kibosh on plans to reopen two crossings in and out of the Strip on Sunday.
Over 40,000 Palestinians took part in protests at the Gaza border Saturday afternoon, the Israel Defense Forces said, with some rioters throwing grenades and explosives toward the security fence as well as lobbing rocks at troops and burning tires.
The army said soldiers responded with “riot dispersal means” and live fire in accordance with IDF regulations, noting that most Palestinians attending the one-year anniversary of the “March of Return” protests remained at a distance from the border.
The coastal enclave’s Hamas-run health ministry said three Palestinians were killed during the protests, while at least 200 were injured. Most of those hurt were lightly wounded, but three were said to be in critical condition.
The dead Palestinians were 17-year-old Adham Nidal Sakr Amara, who was apparently shot in the head, and another 17-year-old, Tamer Abu Khair, who was shot in the chest. Late on Saturday the ministry said another 17-year-old, Bilal al-Najjar, had succumbed to his wounds after being shot during the protests.
The Hamas-run interior ministry said it had deployed 8,000 security personnel along the border to prevent demonstrators from approaching the fence, Army Radio reported. Channel 12 said this was the first time in a year that Hamas had acted in this way to keep a check on the protests.
But warnings to stay far back from the heavily fortified fence that marks the border were not being heeded by all.
“We will move towards the borders even if we die,” said Yusef Ziyada, 21, his face painted in the colors of the Palestinian flag. “We are not leaving. We are returning to our land.”
Channel 12 news said two boys, aged 8, crossed the border, one of them carrying a knife, and that they were sent back into Gaza.
The report said there were no major attempts to breach the fence and the protests were more of the level of some of the weekly Friday protests this past year, rather than the fiercer riots for which the IDF had been braced.
Meanwhile, a fire broke out in a farming community in southern Israel near the Gaza Strip on Saturday afternoon. Authorities said they were looking into whether an incendiary balloon launched from the enclave sparked the blaze.
A spokesman for Hamas warned Israel that the terror group would respond if Israel did not honor unspecified “understandings” regarding the border.
“The resistance is ready on the ground and is monitoring Israel’s commitment to the understandings to stop the killing and violence,” Fawzi Barhoum said, according to the Ynet news site.
“If Israel won’t honor this, the resistance is ready to respond and change the equation. Today is a crossroads in our relation to the occupation.”
Senior Hamas official Bassem Naim called Saturday’s protest “a very important message sent from Gaza today to all parties, mainly the Israelis and the international community.
“Gazans today are gathering here, thousands and thousands of people peacefully, to raise their voice against aggression and the imposed siege on Gaza,” he told AFP.