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Gaza militants use Egyptian-brokered ceasefire to launch 21 rockets into Israel

JTA

November 16, 2012 | 7:50 am

An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket in the southern city of Ashdod on Nov. 16. Photo by REUTERS/Amir Cohen

An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket in the southern city of Ashdod on Nov. 16. Photo by REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Palestinian militants reportedly fired 21 rockets from Gaza into Israel during a unilateral ceasefire called by Israel to facilitate a visit to Gaza by Egypt’s prime minister.

Israel briefly suspended its attacks on Gaza on Friday -- the third day of Israel’s operation Pillar of Defense against Hamas -- at the behest of Egypt ahead of an impromptu solidarity visit by Egyptian prime minister Hisham Kandil, an Israeli official told the news site Ynet.

Four of the rockets fired during the Egyptian premier’s visit were intercepted over Ashdod by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. The remaining 17 landed in and around Ashkelon and Kiryat Gat, Ynet site reported. Israeli aircraft resumed their attacks late Friday morning.

So far, the exchanges have killed 19 Palestinians, including two children and Ahmed Jabari, a top terrorist chief, and three Israelis. Israel launched the operation in retaliation for intensified rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.

According to Ynet, the Israeli defense ministry will deliver a fifth Iron Dome battery to the Israel Air Force for deployment on Saturday. Iron Dome intercepted 140 rockets since the operation began on Wednesday, according to NRG, the news site of Ma’ariv.

Early on Friday morning, before the visit, two Katyusha Grad rockets from Gaza hit Ashdod and another exploded in a house in Sha’ar Hanegev regional council, NRG reported. No one was injured in the barrage. Iron Dome intercepted five Katyushas destined for Be’er Sheva and another five hit unpopulated areas.

Later Friday, two rockets launched from Gaza reached the Tel Aviv area, at least the third and fourth to do so since Wednesday. There were no reports of injuries or damage. Hamas claimed responsibility for firing the rockets.

On Thursday evening, Israel Air Force aircraft hit some 250 targets in the Gaza Strip. One of the targets, according to the Jerusalem Post, was the home of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. He was reportedly not hurt.

The IDF is drafting 16,000 reserves troops in possible preparation for a ground incursion into Gaza, Army Radio reported. According to previous reports, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak had asked the cabinet to approve drafting 30,000 troops.

Since operation Pillar of Defense began on November 14, the IDF killed 15 Palestinians in Gaza, including three children and seven militants, AP reported.

On Friday, Israel deployed thousands of police officers at Jerusalem's Temple Mount, a dite holy to both Muslims and Jews, in preparation for disturbances during Friday prayers by Muslims.

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