A ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip that for weeks already has existed only in name is set to officially expire on Friday, despite efforts by Jerusalem to extend the truce.
A Hamas spokesman told reporters in Gaza that "it is the Palestinian nation's right to use all means necessary to defend itself," and that come Friday morning local terrorist cells would no longer be limited in their actions.
Israeli residents living in the vicinity of Gaza say all the talk of a ceasefire and its coming to an end is nothing but a show for political gain, by both Hamas and Israel's current leadership. As evidence they point to the 250 or so rockets and mortar shells that have been fired at Israeli towns from Gaza over the past month alone, while the ceasefire was purportedly still in effect.
Five more rockets landed near communities in southern Israel on Wednesday night, shortly after Israeli aircraft struck targets in Gaza in response to intense terrorist attacks earlier in the day.
The Israeli strikes targeted two arms factories in Gaza City and Khan Younis. The attack, the first of its kind by Israel in months, was launched in response to a barrage of 16 terrorist rockets on southern Israel.
Two of those rockets landed in the southern industrial zone of the port city of Ashkelon, narrowly missing several strategic facilities and leaving three local works suffering from shock. Another rocket hit the parking lot of a shopping mall in the battered town of Sderot, sending shopper scrambling in panic for the nearest bomb shelter.
Speaking to Ha'aretz on Wednesday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak insisted that the ceasefire deal was not a mistake, despite the many Palestinian violations and the opportunity it afforded Hamas to bolster its rule and military capabilities free from Israeli military interference.
Other Israeli officials and not a few army officers have countered that because of the ceasefire and the efficient use the terrorists made of it, the inevitable looming clash between Israel and Hamas will now be far more bloody.