As a cease-fire between Israel and Gazan militants neared, Prime Minister Yair Lapid told municipal leaders of southern cities on Sunday afternoon that Israel had achieved its goal in the current battle by eliminating key figures in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s top command.
But rocket volleys from the Strip targeting Siderot, Ashkelon and other local communities continued into the evening. The vast majority of rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system, but a few sporadic impacts were observed near homes or industrial buildings.
Several rockets were also fired towards Tel Aviv on Sunday evening and were intercepted. Channel 12 reported that a rocket was intercepted at Ben Gurion Airport, Israel’s main air hub, but this was denied by a spokesman for the Israel Airports Authority who said air traffic was uninterrupted.
A man was taken to a hospital for treatment after a rocket hit an industrial zone in Ashkelon around 8 p.m.
Both Israel and the PIJ said the ceasefire would go into effect at 11:30 p.m
Several media outlets in the afternoon, citing Egyptian sources, claimed that the cease-fire would take effect at 8 p.m. However, as time passed, the cease-fire was not announced, with Israeli networks reporting that Israel had agreed to peace. -Quiet plan, PIJ was still reluctant, failed to make any significant gains so far.
And Muhammad al-Hindi, a senior member of the organization, said in a statement that it was “too early to talk about the timing of the ceasefire.”
PIJ officials announced a cease-fire around 9 p.m., Israeli officials later confirmed.
On the third day of Operation Breaking Dawn, Israel’s air offensive against the PIJ, Lapid visited the headquarters of the IDF Southern Command to assess the situation with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi and other officials. He then traveled to Sderot to meet with the mayors of Sderot and Ashkelon, along with local authority heads, as well as other municipal officials.
According to several Hebrew media reports, Lapid told local authority chiefs that Israel had accomplished its objective in three days of fighting and that there was no real benefit to continuing the operation.
The IDF says that in the first two days of the operation, it killed the deputy head of southern Gaza and the commander of the terrorist group’s Rafah Brigade, along with PIJ military leaders in northern and southern Gaza. It also killed the head of the group’s anti-tank missile array.
According to Channel 12, during a security cabinet meeting on Saturday evening, Shin Bet chief Ronen Barr advised ministers to wrap up the operation before the situation gets complicated in the event of an “accident or mistake” by the military. The report, citing three unnamed sources in the room, said most ministers agreed with the assessment.
As of Sunday evening, the IDF said the PIJ had fired 935 rockets toward Israel since Friday. Of those, 160 fell in the Gaza Strip, according to the latest figures, and about 300 were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system. Most of the others fell in open areas.
Southern cities were bombarded with rockets throughout the day. Another rocket hit power lines in the area, causing power outages in some towns, local officials said.
In the morning, the PIJ fired rockets towards Jerusalem, but they fell short of reaching the capital and set off sirens in surrounding towns.
The Defense Ministry said three mortars were also fired at the Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza. The fire damaged the roof of the terminal and shrapnel fell in the entrance hall, the ministry said. No one was injured as the crossing serving Palestinians into Israel has been closed for several days.
Since Friday, Israel has launched a heavy air and artillery bombardment of Islamic Jihad positions in Gaza. The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said at least 41 Palestinians, including 11 children, had been killed and 311 people wounded since Friday. Three Israelis were wounded by shrapnel and others were forced to take shelter from barrages of rockets fired from Gaza.
Israel said many of the dead were PIJ terrorists. It said Palestinian rocket misfires on Gaza homes killed at least nine civilians, including several children.
At around 8pm on Sunday, the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said five more people had been killed in Gaza. Military sources told Hebrew media that the death may have been caused by another PIJ rocket misfire, but this was not immediately confirmed.
On Sunday, the IDF said it struck 11 PIJ rocket launching positions, two mortar launching sites, along with other sites on the Gaza Strip.
The Gaza operation was launched after days of closures and lockdowns in Israeli communities near the Strip, as PIJ sought to avenge the arrest of its West Bank leader last Monday, warning of an imminent attack.
Israeli leaders and military officials said the operation was launched after Islamic Jihad refused to back down from its plans to attack Israeli targets near the border.
Emmanuel Fabian contributed to this report.