The military had shut down a popular beach and placed limitations on large gatherings as residents kept mostly close to home on Saturday amid dozens of rockets that were fired from Gaza. But after several hours of calm it said summer camps would operate as usual and residents could resume their daily routines.
On Saturday, the military carried out its largest wave of air strikes in Gaza since the 2014 war, hitting several Hamas military compounds and flattening a number of its training camps. Two Palestinian teenagers were killed in an air strike in Gaza City, while four Israelis were wounded from a rocket that landed on a residential home.
The Israeli military said several mortar shells were fired even after Hamas announced the ceasefire as sirens warning of incoming projectiles wailed in Israel overnight again.
The military struck the mortar launcher early yesterday but calm held for several hours and neither side appears eager to resume hostilities.
Hamas police announced yesterday that an explosion at a house in Gaza City killed a father and son, aged 35 and 13. The explosion was not the result of an Israeli air strike and appeared more likely an accidental blast related to militant stockpiles of explosives. Hamas said it would investigate.
The Israeli military said it unleashed Saturday’s barrage in response to weeks of violence along the Gaza border - including a grenade attack on Friday that wounded an officer - as well as sustained Hamas rocket attacks and a lengthy campaign of launching incendiary kites and balloons that have devastated Israeli farmlands and nature reserves along the coastal strip.
Hamas responded with more than 200 projectiles towards Israel communities, evoking the memories of the three wars the sides have waged over the past decade. Israel said its Iron Dome defence system shot down more than 20 projectiles.
Israel also destroyed several Hamas attack tunnels, factories involved in production of the incendiary kites and balloons, and a Hamas battalion headquarters in northern Gaza.
“We have no intention of tolerating rockets, kites, drones or anything. Hamas has sustained a heavy blow,” said Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman. “I hope Hamas will draw conclusions and if not, they will have to pay a heavy price.”
Two teenagers were killed and several wounded when Israel struck an unfinished five-floor building near a Hamas security compound and a public park in Gaza City.
The military says the abandoned building once served as the Palestinian National Library but in recent years was used by Hamas as a training facility for urban warfare and it had dug an offensive tunnel under the building, part of its underground network.
That strike triggered a launch toward the border town of Sderot, where a rocket scored a direct hit on the Buchris family home.
“We were sitting in the living room and all of a sudden the aquarium exploded and there was smoke everywhere and glasses flew everywhere and we were filled with blood,” said Aharon Buchris, wounded along with his wife and two teenage daughters.
Israel has been warning Hamas in recent weeks that while it has no interest in exacerbating hostilities, it will not tolerate Gaza militants’ continued efforts to breach the border and its campaign to devastate Israeli border communities with incendiary attacks.
Hamas-led border protests are aimed in part at drawing attention to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007. Over 130 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since protests began on March 30.
With Israel focused on rising tensions along its northern border in its efforts to prevent Iran from establishing a permanent military foothold in post-war Syria, it has been wary of escalating violence in Gaza.
But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also come under pressure to act from southern Israeli communities that have once again found themselves under rocket fire from Gaza in addition to contending with the daily field fires. Netanyahu vowed on Saturday that Israel would continue to strike as long as necessary. His cabinet was convening yesterday to discuss the situation.
Hamas, meanwhile, has been trying to break out of its isolation and spotlight the hardships of the impoverished strip without invoking the full wrath of Israel.