Dozens of rockets launched from Gaza at southern Israel overnight

Smoke rises following an Israeli air strike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, March 25, 2019. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Schools in southern Israel were closed Tuesday after more than 60 rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip overnight.

The rockets continued to be aimed at civilian areas of southern Israel even as Hamas said it had accepted a cease-fire agreement brokered through Egypt that was to take effect at 10 p.m. Monday night.

Rockets continued to be fired until after 3 a.m. Tuesday with several intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system and others landing in open areas. There were no reported injuries to Israelis. A private home in Sderot was damaged after a rocket landed on it but failed to explode.

Israeli jets responded throughout the night, striking Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad military compounds in northern Gaza, among others. The Israel Defense Forces announced that it destroyed the office of Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh. At least three Palestinians were reported injured in the bombings.

The violence came after a rocket fired from Gaza early Monday morning scored a direct hit on a home in central Israel, injuring 7, leading to Israeli retaliatory attacks about 12 hours later.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as defense minister, returned to Israel from Washington late Tuesday morning. He went directly from the airport to a security briefing at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv.

Before boarding his plane in Washington Netanyahu said in a statement that “We have responded very, very forcefully. Hamas needs to know that we will not hesitate to go in and take all necessary steps – regardless of anything, any date, other than Israel’s security needs.” The any date is an apparent reference to Israel’s national elections scheduled for April 9.

Haaretz quoted Palestinian sources in Gaza as saying that Israel’s condition for a cease-fire is an end to border fence violence, including launching incendiary balloons and the planned Friday protest marking the one-year anniversary of the March of Return.