Rockets fired from Gaza struck southern Israel two hours after a humanitarian cease-fire went into effect.
Israel observed an agreed upon humanitarian cease-fire announced Wednesday night, halting its aerial fire on Gaza at 10 a.m. Thursday as agreed.
Two hours after the cease-fire began, rockets were fired on the Eshkol region near the Gaza border, in violation of the cease-fire. It is not known what group fired the rockets. Hamas was the only Gaza terror group to officially agree to the cease-fire.
The halt in fire on both sides is to give Palestinian civilians an opportunity to purchase food and other necessities. Most Gazan civilians have not ventured far from their homes since the start ten days ago of Operation Protective Edge. In addition to Gazans flooding supermarkets, it is reported that hundreds are lining up outside of an open branch of the Bank of Palestine in Gaza City.
Robert Serry, the United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, had asked Israel to hold its fire for humanitarian reasons and Israel agreed.
Prior to the start of the cease-fire on Thursday morning a salvo of multiple rockets was fired at several heavily populated cities in central Israel, including Tel Aviv, Petah Tikvah and Netanya. One rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, and the rest fell in open areas. Several rockets also were fired at Beersheba.
Israel’s Air Force reportedly struck 37 targets in Gaza overnight. The Palestinian death toll since the beginning of the operation stands at 214, according to Palestinian reports. One Israeli civilian has been killed since the beginning of the operation.
Meanwhile, Israel’s military said it was investigating the deaths of four Palestinian boys who were playing on a Gaza City beach when it was shelled.
Gaza officials said the shelling on Wednesday afternoon was an Israeli naval or aerial attack.
“Based on preliminary results, the target of this strike was Hamas terrorist operatives,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. “The reported civilian causalities from this strike are a tragic outcome.”
The statement added, “We are carefully investigating the incident in question.”
The boys, aged 9 to 11, were brothers and cousins, according to reports; seven others were wounded in the attack. The family appears to be affiliated with the Fatah faction, rivals of Hamas, as photos of the funeral show the boys wrapped in Fatah flags.
The strike took place near a hotel frequented by journalists, many of whom provided first-person accounts in their publications and on social media.
More than 200 Palestinian Gazans have been killed in the eight days of Operation Protective Edge, the majority civilians, according to Palestinian reports.