Defense officials say Hamas approached Israel indirectly, asked for ceasefire after more than 20 terrorists killed, dozens hurt in past 48 hours; meanwhile, more than 70 rockets, mortar shells and missiles fired at southern communities
Is latest round of fighting nearing its end? Hamas’ political wing is interested in a ceasefire and has approached Israel indirectly with a message to that effect via various elements, defense officials said Saturday.
The officials noted that Hamas sustained a harsh blow in the past 48 hours, with more than 20 terrorists killed in the Gaza Strip and dozens wounded in IDF strikes. Overall, some 35 Hamas men have been killed in the past 10 days.
However, despite the assessment, rocket attacks on Israeli communities continued through Saturday, with anti-rocket sirens activated at various southern towns and regions Saturday afternoon. Earlier in the day, rockets exploded near the town of Ofakim, with one landing near a local school.
‘Terrorists hiding behind civilians’
The latest round of fighting began Thursday, after Hamas fired an anti-tank missile at a school bus traveling in southern Israel. A 16-year-old boy sustained serious wounds in the attack and the bus driver was lightly hurt.
Since Thursday, terror groups in Gaza fired more than 70 rockets, mortar shells and missiles at southern Israel communities. Several rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-rocket system.
The army said that terrorists in Gaza are making use of public buildings in their attacks and are operating in crowded population centers. A video published by the IDF Spokesman’s Office documented a strike on a rocket launcher hidden in a Gaza cemetery. Several Palestinian civilians were hurt in the attack.
“When Palestinian civilians are killed in these kinds of strikes, the population should only complain to Hamas, which continues to turn its own citizens into a protective vest,” a military official said.
Meanwhile, the IDF Home Front Command and municipal officials decided that sporting events scheduled for Saturday evening will be held without a crowd, to avoid the risk of a mass-casualty rocket attack.
‘All options on table’
Earlier, defense officials said that Hamas understood the heavy price it has paid following the missile attack on the school bus. The army added that Israel has not used all means at its disposal, and that “all options were on the table.”
“We won’t tolerate incidents like the one we saw Thursday,” a senior official said. “It’s important for us to initiate, and not only respond.”
In recent days, security officials reported that Hamas’ military wing is no longer following the orders of the group’s political wing, and that the organization is facing anarchy. At this time, officials expect significant pressure within Hamas to agree to a ceasefire.