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Rockets Fired from Gaza into Israel Jeopardize Cease-fire Efforts

Four rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel Wednesday night, to which the Israeli military responded by striking multiple Hamas targets in the Palestinian enclave. Two of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system, while the others landed in open areas. There were no reports of injuries following the Israeli air strikes. The IDF believes the projectiles were launched by members of the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad, which, following the targeted killing of its military commander, fought a fierce 48-hour battle with Israel in November. Wednesday’s exchange came shortly after the discovery in an Israeli town of a suspicious object attached to a cluster of balloons. This sparked concern that terror groups in Gaza could return to the tactic of flying flammable and explosive materials into Israel, a practice that last year caused massive ecological and economic devastation. The events come against the backdrop of relative calm along the shared border, as Israel and Hamas are reportedly working to translate loose “understandings” into a formal, long-term cease-fire. The process, however, apparently stalled after Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh earlier this month attended the funeral in Tehran of slain Quds Force chief Qasem Soleimani, whom he lauded for building “strong, powerful and warm” ties between Gaza and the Islamic Republic. The Egyptian government, which has been mediating the prospective truce between the sides, was furious with Haniyeh, who had exited the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, giving assurances that he would not travel to Iran. Cairo has since reportedly imposed punitive measures on Gaza, including upping the taxes on goods entering the enclave through the Rafah crossing. In the wake of Soleimani’s killing, Jerusalem reportedly warned both Hamas and Islamic Jihad against targeting Israel in retaliation.