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In first strike since truce, a mortar round from Gaza hits Israel

In first strike since truce, a mortar round from Gaza hits Israel
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month. Yaalon told reporters Sept. 16 that there were "no signs fire from the [Gaza] Strip will resume at the end of the month." (Gali Tibbon / AFP / Getty Images)

A mortar round fired from the Gaza Strip struck southern Israel on Tuesday, the first such shelling since a truce took effect last month ending seven weeks of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which caused no injuries or damage, according to a statement from Israeli military. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told news media that the group remained committed to the cease-fire.

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"We will not accept sporadic fire on our communities," said Haim Yellin, head of the region council in Eshkol, where the shell landed, urging Israel's government to secure a long-term calm for its citizens.

Israel's 50-day military assault on Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza came to a halt Aug. 26 when both sides accepted an Egyptian proposal to hold their fire and agreed to begin negotiations for a more lasting cease-fire within a month. These have not yet begun.

Earlier Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon told reporters there were "no signs fire from the strip will resume at the end of the month, with or without the renewal of the cease-fire talks in Cairo."

In the meanwhile, the minister said, Israel was "working to stabilize reality on the ground" by relieving restrictions on Gaza, including expanding the coastal enclave's fishing zone and increasing the number of cargo trucks allowed into Gaza.

Yaalon said construction material would be allowed into Gaza within a month, once a special supervision mechanism was in place to ensure it goes to civilian rebuilding efforts only and not to restoring Hamas' military infrastructure.

Israel and the Palestinians Authority have agreed to a plan proposed by the United Nations to monitor the use of construction materials in Gaza and provide security assurances so "they will not be diverted from their entirely civilian purpose," U.N. Middle East Envoy Robert Serry reportedly told the Security Council on Tuesday.

A report from Serry's office emphasized the importance of both sides' demands and said either continued Israeli closure of Gaza or the smuggling of weapons by militants would set the stage for "another, even more catastrophic war."

Palestinian economists recently estimated the reconstruction of Gaza would cost $7.8 billion, of which $2.5 billion would be needed to rebuild the homes destroyed.

According to the World Bank Group, the Gaza crisis has worsened the Palestinian Authority's economic challenges and deepened its deficit. The group plans to assist the Palestinian Authority with an emergency development grant to cover urgent expenditure, and says an aid conference is slated for October.

Sobelman is a special correspondent.

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