The shaky truce between Israel and Hamas mostly held on Thursday, but rocket fire from Gaza resumed almost immediately after the the ceasefire expired.
A five-hour "humanitarian window" went into effect early on Thursday, a ceasefire that was broken when three mortars were fired into Israel just two hours in the break. Hamas did not claim responsibility and Israel did not immediately retaliate, so the truce has continued as planned, with Gazans taking the opportunity to gather supplies and repair damage.
Reports of another ceasefire to begin tomorrow circulated, but were later denied by both Israeli and Hamas representatives.
Despite the temporary lull in the shooting, the conflict shows every sign of continuing. Just hours before the UN-brokered temporary truce was set to begin, Israeli troops reportedly thwarted an operation by 13 armed Hamas infiltrators, who were said to have tunneled into Israel from Gaza. They were stopped just a mile short of a kibbutz in southern Israel where 45 families live.
According to reports, the men were detected by Israeli troops coming out a secret tunnel that had been dug about 250 yards into Israeli territory from Gaza. According to the Jerusalem Post, the army was not delicate about the matter:
The army said that the troops "neutralized the threat."
There were reports of gunfire and strikes against the infiltrators from the air, but it's not clear how many of the men might have been killed.
Last week, six Hamas infiltrators somewhat mysteriously died after reportedly encountering some explosives in a Gaza tunnel that opened into Israeli territory. These two episodes along with the Hamas launching of a drone (which was promptly shot down with a Patriot missile) are just a few of other tactics that Hamas has adopted in addition to firing nearly 1,400 rockets into Israel during its ten-day conflict.
Tunnels had long been used by Hamas and others to smuggle weapons, fuel, and goods into Gaza from Egypt before the Hamas-friendly Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was deposed and the Egyptian army shut most of the tunnels down last year. Nevertheless, Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza have also launched cross-border attacks through tunnels, but generally with little success.
There are some exceptions. As Mitch Ginsburg explained:
The tunnel is part of a network of underground channels, laboriously dug, as offensive lanes into Israel. In June 2006 two Israeli soldiers were killed in an ambush that began via a tunnel in the same region, and a third, Gilad Shalit, was captured and taken back to Gaza. His exchange, five and a half years later, for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, is considered one of Hamas’ crowning achievements."
According to Israeli Army Radio, the Hamas fighters who tunneled into Israel on Thursday had equipment with them to aid in an abduction.