JERUSALEM (JTA) – Rockets fired from Gaza continued to land in populated areas of Israel after Israel’s Security Cabinet accepted an Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire and put it into effect.
The Cabinet announced in a one-sentence statement its acceptance of the cease-fire at 9 am on Tuesday, when it was scheduled to go into effect.
More than 35 rockets landed in southern Israel and further inward in the hours after Israel put the cease-fire into effect. Rockets were fired as far north as Haifa and Zichron Yaakov. Hamas took responsibility for the long-range rocket fired on Haifa that was intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system. Also, a home in Ashdod took a direct hit from a rocket fired Tuesday morning.
“Israel’s leadership has directed our forces to suspend strikes in Gaza. We remain prepared to respond to Hamas attacks and defend Israel,” the Israel Defense Forces spokesman said Tuesday morning.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement early Tuesday afternoon following a meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier that, despite accepting a cease-fire, Israel will defend itself if necessary.
“We accepted the Egyptian proposal in order to present an opportunity for Gaza to be disarmed of its missiles, rockets, and tunnels through political means, but if Hamas does not accept this proposed ceasefire – and this is how it appears at present – Israel will have full international legitimacy for an expanded military operation to return the necessary quiet,” he said.
Hamas reportedly has rejected the cease-fire proposal, calling it unacceptable. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told the Palestinian Maan news agency that Hamas was not officially informed of the proposal by the Egyptians or any other party.
“We are a people under occupation and resistance is a legitimate right for occupied peoples,” he said, according to Maan.
Reuters reported Tuesday morning, however, that Hamas leadership was in Cairo debating the proposed Gaza truce and meeting with Egyptian officials.
The military wing of Islamic Jihad called the proposal a “surrender.”
“If what has been circulated is true, this initiative means kneeling and submissiveness and so we completely refuse it and to us, it’s not worth the ink used in writing it,” a statement said, according to Maan.
Meanwhile, at least five Israelis were injured early Tuesday morning when three rockets were fired at the southern resort town of Eilat. One of the rockets struck four cars, sparking a fire. The rockets were launched from the Sinai Peninsula, Haaretz reported.
Overnight, the Israel Air Force (IAF) attacked 25 Gaza targets. In the 24 hours ending Tuesday morning, the IAF attacked 132 targets, including more than 50 concealed rocket launching pads and 11 weapons storage facilities. Among the targets hit was the home of Marwan Issa, the leader of Hamas’ military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
More than 180 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of Israel’s Operation Defensive Edge.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday morning decided not to fly to the area to push the cease-fire following his nine-day trip to Asia and Europe as he had been considering.
U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro posted on his Facebook page a statement attributed to Kerry: “The Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire & negotiations provides an opportunity to end the violence and restore calm. We welcome the Israeli cabinet’s decision to accept it. We urge all other parties to accept the proposal.”