Planning IDF redeployment in Gaza
Planning IDF redeployment in GazaIsrael News Photo: IDF Spokesperson

Fighting resumed Sunday morning in Gaza as Hamas terrorists fired rockets on Israel, just hours after Israel announced it would implement a unilateral ceasefirethe.

By 12:00 noon, at least 10 rockets and mortars had been fired at southern Israel. A long-range rocket landed in a moshav near Kiryat Gat at around 11:45 a.m. The missile exploded in a chicken coop, causing extensive damage but miraculously no physical injuries to anyone other than the chickens.

Another chicken coop was also hit by mortar fire at around 9:30 a.m. in a kibbutz in the Sha'ar HaNegev region. Mortars also hit the Eshkol region at around the same time. 

Earlier in the morning, the IDF said that terrorists fired on Israeli soldiers stationed in Gaza. IDF troops responded with tank and helicopter fire.

The terrorists also launched a Kassam rocket attack on the Gaza Belt community of Sderot, located less than a kilometer away from the security barrier. A barrage of six of the short-range rockets exploded in the city at about 9:00 a.m., but all of the missiles landed in open areas. No one was physically injured and no damage was reported.

Israel Air Force pilots struck the terrorist cell that launched the rocket attack on Sderot shortly after. They confirmed hitting the operatives and eliminating the launchers.

The IDF had cautioned residents of northern and central Gaza against returning prematurely to their homes, noting there would be a "harsh response" to any violation of the ceasefire. Likewise, Home Front Command on the other side of the security barrier had also prohibited Israeli citizens from sending their children to school within a 40-kilometer (25 mile) radius of Gaza.

“In accordance with the Cabinet decision to accept the Egyptian proposal… the IDF is currently taking the necessary measures to implement the [ceasefire] decision,” said the IDF Spokesman in a statement to the media overnight. Troops will be redeployed “in accordance with security assessments,” and “the forces will be briefed on the specifics of the ceasefire rules of engagement,” he said.

Hamas had announced from the outset that it would not respect the truce and would continue its attacks on Israeli civilians, despite Jerusalem’s willingness to end the fighting.

The IDF had also warned that “its forces will respond to any attack against Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers, and that any such attack will be met with a harsh response.”

Home Front Command said safety instructions to residents of southern Israel will remain in effect “in light of the possibility that the rocket fire will continue as Hamas cynically seeks to ‘have the last word.’”

Despite the announcement Saturday night by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that the government had decided to go ahead with the ceasefire, the IDF spokesman said Operation Cast Lead was not over and that troops would remain in Gaza.

“As ordered by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and Maj.-Gen. [Yoav] Galant, the operation has not yet ended, and the IDF’s air, naval, ground and intelligence forces will remain alert so as to be ready for any situation,” said the army.

Tens of National Union party activists held a demonstration in front of the Defense Ministry Tel Aviv offices Saturday night against the ceasefire agreement. They called upon government ministers who were meeting there not to back out of the war until the Hamas terrorist organization was crushed. The protestors held signs which read, "IDF are heroes; government ministers are rabbits," and "Destroy the Hamas with No Fear."

The sign designed with rabbit's ears reads: IDF are heroes; government ministers are rabbits

National Union party chairman Yaakov "Ketzaleh" Katz said at the demonstration, "The government should let the IDF vanquish Hamas and enable the residents of southern Israel to live in peace like everywhere else in the world. If we don't take control of the Philadelphi corridor [the Gaza-Egypt border], then the weapons smuggling will continue. We cannot rely on Mubarak to counter the smuggling for us."

Commentator Michael Freund called the ceasefire "a last minute attempt to transform victory into defeat." In a Sunday post to his blog entitled "We Cease, They Fire," he notes, "Sure, international pressure is mounting for Israel to stop defending itself, and a new administration is about to be inaugurated in Washington which is far less likely to be sympathetic to Israel's cause. But neither of these developments can possibly justify leaving Hamas in place in Gaza, and subjecting 900,000 Israelis in the south of the country to continued rocket fire on their homes."

Very few analysts expected the unilateral ceasefire to be "durable" as the United States had hoped, including those in Arab countries.

Rami Khouri, director of the Lebanon-based Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut told the Al Jazeera satellite news network, "Israel has tried many unilateral approaches and each one of them has simply made the situation worse for Israel."