(JTA) – Schools in southern Israeli communities were closed after rockets from Gaza pounded the area, leaving a father of four dead and dozens wounded.
At least 39 rockets and mortars pounded Israel's south over the weekend, including 11 on Sunday morning. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attacks. Early Sunday afternoon, reports that Islamic Jihad had accepted an Egyptian-brokered cease fire surfaced following several hours of calm.
But Israel's Air Force struck a terror cell about to launch a rocket from Gaza to Israel, ending the cease fire after several hours.
Several long-range Grad missiles hit in and near cities in Israel's South, including Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gan Yavne and Beersheba. A school and a private home were damaged in the attacks and several cars were burned. Some 200,000 children stayed home from school, and several colleges and Ben-Gurion University did not open for the start of the 2011-2012 academic year Sunday as scheduled.
An Ashkelon resident and father of four, Moshe Ami, 56, died from injuries sustained when he was hit by shrapnel Saturday as he ran to a shelter from his car. He died in the hospital from stomach wounds several hours after the attack.
On Saturday, Israel's Air Force attacked a terrorist cell preparing to fire long-range rockets from southern Gaza into Israel, thwarting the launch attempt and killing five terrorists. The Israel Defense Force reported that it was the same terrorist cell that was responsible for rockets fired on Israel last week. It is believed that Israel's attack sparked the new barrage of rocket fire from Gaza on Israel.
Israel's Air Force retaliated overnight Saturday for the more than 20 rockets and mortars that rained down on Israeli territory, striking six of what it called "terror activity sites" in Gaza, including three rocket-launching sites and a terror tunnel.
At least ten Islamic Jihad terrorists have been killed in the Israeli strikes, according to the IDF.
"The Hamas terrorist organization has not responded so far and we will examine to what extent it is attempting to thwart this round, as the ruling body in the Gaza Strip," IDF Spokesperson Brig Gen. Yoav Mordechai said late Saturday night, adding that Islamic Jihad was severely hurt in the attacks.
An Iron Dome anti-missile system positioned near Ashdod failed to intercept rockets on Saturday due to a "technical" failure, according to the IDF. It was back in service and intercepted a rocket on Sunday morning.
Some 250 Palestinians demonstrated Friday near Beit Ummar, northwest of Hebron, according to Haaretz. Stones were thrown at Israeli security forces, who responded with stun grenades and tear gas, the newspaper reported.
Similar clashes also took place Friday in at least five other locations, including near the Palestinian villages of Nabi Saleh, Ni’lin and Bil’in, where there are weekly demonstrations against Israel’s security barrier and where exchanges of stone throwing and tear gas regularly occur.