‘Operation Guardian of the Walls’
Israel’s Security Cabinet unanimously approved a cease-fire with Hamas, without any conditions, according to a statement issued Thursday night by the Prime Minister’s Office.
The bilateral cease-fire, brokered by Egypt, will go into effect “at a time to be determined,” according to the statement.
The cease-fire was accepted upon the recommendation of all security officials, the chief of staff, the head of the Shin Bet, the head of the Mossad and the head of the National Security Council, the statement said.
Israeli media reported that the cease-fire will go into effect at 2 am on Friday. Hamas officials confirmed to international media including the BBC that the cease-fire would go into effect at 2 am Friday.
“It is the reality on the ground that will determine the future of the operation,” the statement said.
Residents of communities located up to 4 kilometers, or about 2.5 miles, from the Gaza border, have been ordered to remain in their shelters and safe rooms until further notice in the face of a relentless barrage of rockets being fired from Gaza on the area.
Israel’s Security Cabinet is set to meet at 7 pm, when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu could introduce a cease-fire agreement, according to reports.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a statement that:
“We are fully prepared to expand the campaign to whatever degree proves necessary. We are taking Hamas back in time, and we won’t allow it to come back.”
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu showed visiting German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas that a drone shot down after it crossed into Israel earlier this week was Iranian made and armed with explosives.
The drone, which was shot down near Beit Shean, was launched either from Iraq or Syria, Netanyahu said. The prime minister showed Maas some of the remains of the unmanned aerial vehicle.
Earlier on Thursday Maas met with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who expressed his thanks for Germany’s support of Israel during the conflict.
A rocket fired from Gaza scored a direct hit on a home in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, One person was lightly injured in the attack. The family living in the house entered their fortified room and escaped injury.
Ashkelon, Beersheba and other southern Israeli cities and communities have come under a barrage of rockets in recent minutes.
An anti-tank guided missile was fired from Gaza at a military bus near Zikim in southern Israel. Hamas claimed responsibility for the strike.
The Israel Defense Forces says that the bus was empty at the time of the attack. A soldier who was standing near the sit of the attack was lightly wounded by shrapnel, according to the IDF.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Israeli counterpart, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi in a phone call on Wednesday night that “the U.S. expects to see de-escalation on the path to a ceasefire,” according to a statement by State Department spokesman Ned Price.
The admonition echoes a conversation earlier in the day between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Blinken, according to the statement, “noted that the United States would remain engaged with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and regional stakeholders in the days ahead.”
Some 70 rockets were launched from Gaza toward Israel from 7 pm Wednesday to 7 am Thursday, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Ten of the launches are estimated to have fallen inside Gaza. The last launch came at about 11:15 pm, giving Israeli towns under fire several hours of quiet.
More than 4,000 rockets have been fired toward Israel from Gaza since May 10, with more than 600 landing inside Gaza. The Iron Dome missile defense system has had an intercept rate of about 90%, according to the IDF.
The IDF said it attacked what it termed “terrorist targets” in Gaza throughout the night, including military infrastructure for conducting combat operations located at the home of a company commander in the North Khan Yunis Battalion, Ali Abu Zarqa; weapons production sites; and several rocket launching stations.
Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz in a call on Wednesday briefed US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on the current fighting with Gaza and told him that “with every passing day the IDF is reaching significant achievements that considerably diminish the military capacity of Hamas, which continues to fire on Israeli civilians indiscriminately,” according to a statement from the Ministry of Defense.
Gantz told Austin that Israel “intends to act responsibly, in terms of its defense and foreign policy, and to work with moderate forces in the region.”
He also thanked Austin for American backing, calling it “enormously significant to Israel.”
US President Joe Biden in a call with Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday “had a detailed discussion on the state of events in Gaza, Israel’s progress in degrading the capabilities of Hamas and other terrorist elements, and ongoing diplomatic efforts by regional governments and the United States,” according to a readout from the White House.
Biden told Netanyahu that he “expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire.”
It is the fourth call between Biden and Netanyahu this week.
Four rockets are fired from southern Lebanon at Israel, causing Code Red rocket alerts in the Haifa area, Acre, and the lower and western Galilee.
One rocket was intercepted, one fell in an open area, and two fell in the sea, according to the Israel Defense Forces.
The Israeli military launches airstrikes on targets in Lebanese territory in response.
Palestinian groups in Lebanon, not Hizbullah, are believed to be behind the attack.
Israel closed the Kerem Shalom Crossing with Gaza Wednesday afternoon after mortar shells were fired as shipments of humanitarian aid were being sent through the border crossing.
The entrance of humanitarian aid shipments to Gaza has been halted until further notice, according to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.
The crossing was closed on Tuesday after a soldier assisting in the transfer of humanitarian aid was injured in an attack on the crossing.
Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu briefs some 70 foreign diplomats at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv late Wednesday morning, with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.
The briefing is attended by diplomatic representatives from the United States, the EU representative, and ambassadors from Russia, China, India, Germany, Austria, Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada, Italy and other countries, the prime minister’s office says in a tweet.
Netanyahu told the diplomats that Hamas fomented the current conflict to help itself politically after Palestinian elections were canceled earlier this month.
Seven rockets fired from Gaza land inside a southern Israeli community in the Eshkol region, damaging private homes. There are no reported injuries.
Terror groups in Gaza launched 50 rockets toward Israel between 7 p.m. on Tuesday and 7 am on Wednesday, with 10 of those rockets landing inside the coastal strip, the Israel Defense Forces reported on Wednesday morning.
Hamas said in a statement that it was targeting Israeli Air Force bases during the nighttime rocket attacks, though the rockets were heading toward and landed in civilian areas and were launched toward areas where no bases are located.
The Israel Defense Forces overnight on Tuesday targeted the Hamas “Metro,” a system of tunnels throughout the Gaza Strip. The air strikes focused on the cities of Khan Younis and Rafah in southern Gaza, an area in which the IDF has operated the least since the start of Operation Guardian of the Walls, the IDF said.
At least 10 Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives were killed in the air atrikes, according to IDF Spokesman Hidai Zilberman.
Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited an Israeli naval base in the southern city of Ashdod, where he was given an intelligence briefing on Israeli naval efforts in the current campaign, and met with combat soldiers.
“Our naval soldiers are fighting with resolve, tackling terror targets along the Gaza coast through means that Hamas is unfamiliar with. The naval force that Hamas built has largely been dismantled and sunk. At the same time, owing to the navy’s joint work with other forces, Israel’s maritime economic freedom has been preserved, and we’ve prevented attempts to damage gas reserves or commit other acts of maritime terrorism,” Gantz said.
Ashdod has come under sustained rocket fire from Gaza throughout the current cross-border violence.
Two people were killed and at least eight others injured when a rocket fired from Gaza scored a direct hit on a packing plant near the city of Beersheba. Both of the men are reported to be foreign nationals in their 30s.
Heavy rocket fire began from Gaza on Tuesday afternoon. Residents of communities within a four kilometer distance from the border have been ordered to remain in their bomb shelters.
Several homes in the Eshkol Regional Counil have been damaged, and livestock killed at farms in the area.
An Israeli soldier was injured in a mortar attack at the Erez Crossing with the Gaza Strip. The soldier, 19, was assisting the transfer of humanitarian aid to Gaza. He was lightly injured and is being cared for at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, according to the Israel Defense Foces.
The Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings were temporarily reopened to allow trucks to bring fuel, medical equipment and food into Gaza.
Both crossings were attacked during the transfers.
About 1,750 rockets were launched toward Israel from Gaza since the start of the attacks on Monday evening, the Israel Defense Forces said on Thursday at 7 pm. Some 300 of those rockets failed to clear Gazan territory, according to the IDF. About 160 rockets were fired at Israel between 7 am and 7 pm on Thursday.
Also on Thursday, the IDF called up an additional 7,000 reservists, and canceled leave for all combat units, as military officials consider whether to launch a ground war in Gaza.
Hamas launched drones packed with explosives from Gaza into Israel. At least five of the so-called suicide drones reportedly were launched simultaneously. The drones were released as over 100 rockets were fired in an area running from Eilat in the south to Tel Aviv in central Israel.
The Ramon Airport in Eilat in southern Israel briefly suspended operations after Hamas fired a rocket at the airport. The rocket traveled 250 kilometers over Israeli territory, the farthest for a rocket fired from Gaza. The short shutdown comes as all commercial flights scheduled to arrive at Ben-Gurion International Airport in Israel’s center were redirected to Eilat. Hamas appears to be targeting the country’s airports in an attempt to halt all international travel.
The Gaza Health Ministry reports 83 deaths and 487 injuries from IDF airstrikes since the beginning of Operation Guardian of the Walls.
US President Joe Biden tells reporters that he spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Biden said he told Netanyahu that “My expectation and hope is that this will be closing down sooner than later, but Israel has a right to defend itself when you have thousands of rockets flying into your territory.”
A readout of the conversation provided by the White House, said that Biden “shared his conviction that Jerusalem, a city of such importance to people of faith from around the world, must be a place of peace.”
A Jewish Israeli is in critical condition after being attacked by a mob of Arab Israelis in the mixed city of Acre in northern Israel. Meanwhile, an Arab man driving through the mixed central Israel city of Bat Yam was attacked and beaten by a Jewish mob, as several mixed Jewish and Arab cities throughout Israel convulsed with racist violence on Wednesday night.
As of 6 a.m. some 180 launches of rockets from Gaza toward Israeli territory have been identified, the Israel Defense Forces reported. Forty of the launches fell inside Gaza, however. At least 1,300 rockets have been fired at Israel since Monday evening.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and, according to a read out from the US State Department “expressed his concerns regarding the barrage of rocket attacks on Israel, his condolences for the lives lost as a result, and the United States’ strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself.” Blinken and Netanyahu “discussed the ongoing violence in Jerusalem, and the Secretary reiterated his call on all parties to deescalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence. The Secretary emphasized the need for Israelis and Palestinians to be able to live in safety and security, as well as enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity, and democracy,” the readout said.
The US Embassy in Jerusalem says in a security alert that it is “exploring options to assist US citizens wishing to leave Gaza.” The statement added, however, that “the situation is fluid and we do not have immediate plans for a US government-organized departure.”
A rocket fired from Gaza scored a direct hit on a home in Ashkelon. Hamas said it fired 130 rockets at Israel on Wednesday evening in response to an airstrike on a high-rise building in Gaza City. The large number of rockets over a short period of time reportedly overwhelmed the Iron Dome missile defense system.
A 6-year-old child was critically injured after a rocket impact in Sderot in southern Israel. He later died of his injuries.