Palestinian terrorists operating out of the Gaza Strip fired some 50 rockets and mortar shells at communities across southern Israel on Wednesday, just hours before a ceasefire agreement both Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers agreed to earlier in the day was set to go into effect.
The ceasefire was scheduled to begin at 6 AM on Thursday morning, but few expected it to last very long following Wednesday's display of aggression, during which an Israeli woman suffered light shrapnel wounds when a Palestinian rocket scored a direct hit on a house in the battered town of Sderot. A number of other people were treated for shock.
Speaking at a philanthropy conference on Wednesday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the army had been instructed to prepare for swift and immediate action should Hamas and its terrorist allies violate the truce.
Senior army officers told Ha'aretz that if no one expects the ceasefire to last anyway, then they fail to understand why Israel is granting Hamas a respite that will almost surely be exploited to strengthen the terror group's defensive and offensive capabilities in Gaza.
The officers noted that the Egyptian-brokered deal places no limitations on Hamas activities in Gaza, and even if it did, there is no monitoring mechanism. Hamas will be free to continue bringing arms into Gaza, planting mines, digging tunnels and building bunkers. By the end of the ceasefire, Gaza may be as difficult a battlefield as southern Lebanon, making an effective response to future Hamas aggression all the more difficult.
In related news, hundreds of Israelis from communities in the besieged western Negev region launched a tax strike on Wednesday in protest of the government's failure over the three years since the so-called "disengagement" from Gaza to effectively combat the rocket fire on their homes.
Leaders of the movement told Israel's Yediot Ahronot newspaper that the government had not stopped with the former Jewish communities of Gaza, and was now disengagement from their towns and villages by ignoring their plight.
They threatened to follow the tax strike with an act of secession from the state, and have already put in motion plans to issue new identity cards to the residents of the new mini-state.