The Latest: New barrage of Gaza rockets fired into Israel
JERUSALEM (AP) — The Latest on the escalation between Gaza’s militant Islamic Jihad group and Israel (all times local):
Gaza militants fired a barrage of rockets into Israel hours after a cease-fire was declared to bring to an end to two days of intense fighting.
Air raid sirens went off in several communities on Thursday near the Gaza Strip as at least five rockets could be seen blasting out of the territory.
The rockets come after both Israel and the Islamic Jihad militant group said they were holding their fire following the heaviest bout of cross-border violence in months.
It was not immediately clear whether Israel would respond and what the fate of the cease-fire might be.
The fighting killed at least 34 Palestinians, among them three women, eight children and 18 militants. The rockets brought life in southern Israel to a standstill.
The Israeli military is defending its attacks on private homes in the Gaza Strip during two days of fighting with Islamic Jihad militants despite the deaths of at least nine civilians — six children and three women.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told reporters on Thursday that Islamic Jihad commanders used their homes to store weapons, making them legitimate targets.
Eight members of a single family were killed in one airstrike. Conricus says he doesn’t have information on that incident but that militants used their families as human shields.
He says: “All of our operations were measured, proportionate and focused only on military assets belonging to the Islamic Jihad.”
Palestinian officials say 34 people were killed, including at least 18 militants. Among the six children killed were a pair of 7-year-olds; three women were also among the dead.
An Israeli military spokesman says the two-day round of fighting in Gaza “is over,” confirming a cease-fire announced earlier by Islamic Jihad militants.
Spokesman Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee said in a tweet on Thursday morning that the operation had ended with Israel having targeted 25 Gaza militants, most of them from the Islamic Jihad group.
Adraee tweeted that the Israeli airstrikes targeted “terrorist infrastructure” above and below ground as well as Islamic Jihad naval positions.
Israel killed a top Islamic Jihad commander on Tuesday, setting off a barrage of rockets from Gaza militants. Israel in turn carried out dozens of airstrikes, killing at least 34 Palestinians.
Three Israelis were lightly wounded by shrapnel or shattered glass and the rockets paralyzed parts of the country.
Israel’s foreign minister says his country intends to continue its policy of targeting Gaza militants with deadly strikes — a warning that came just a few hours after a cease-fire to end the latest round of Israel-Gaza fighting was announced.
The fighting began when Israel killed a senior commander with the Islamic Jihad group in Gaza early on Tuesday, setting off a barrage of rockets and a two-day round of violence.
Foreign Minister Israel Katz told Israeli Army Radio on Thursday that Israel intends to continue its policy of targeted killings.
He says: “Israel will harm anyone who tries to harm it.”
Islamic Jihad announced earlier that it had reached a cease-fire with Israel. The fighting killed at least 32 Palestinians and paralyzed much of southern Israel.
The Islamic Jihad militant group says a cease-fire has been reached to end two days of heavy fighting with Israel.
Spokesman Musab al-Berim says the Egyptian-brokered deal went into effect at 530 a.m. (0330 GMT) Thursday.
He says the cease-fire was based on a list of demands presented by his group late Wednesday, including a halt to Israeli targeted killings of the group’s leaders.
The fighting broke out early Tuesday after Israel killed a senior commander of the militant group.
There was no immediate comment from Israel.