Israel: South pounded by rockets, prepares for more violence
By YAAKOV KATZ
IAF strikes two terrorists on motorbike in Gaza; at least 15
rockets fired into Israel; tourists advised to immediately leave
The South braced for a weekend of violence on Thursday night as
rocket fire intensified and the IDF struck back, killing two
terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
At least 15 rockets and mortar shells pounded southern Israel,
hitting open areas near Ashkelon and in the Sha’ar Hanegev
Regional Council. A mortar shell struck the Erez crossing, which
is frequently used by Palestinians to enter Israel for medical
treatments, causing extensive damage.
The Israel Air Force immediately struck a motorbike traveling in
northern Gaza that military sources said was being driven by two
men from Islamic Jihad who had fired the mortar shells at the Erez
Defense officials said Israel would hold Hamas responsible for the
increase in rocket fire that began on Wednesday after a short lull
and included more than 20 rockets that struck Israel throughout
the night. IDF sources said Islamic Jihad was behind the rocket
fire and that there were indications that Hamas was trying to rein
in the group to prevent a larger Israeli retaliation.
Palestinians reported around 10 people killed in IAF strikes that
began on Wednesday night and that a total of 22 have been killed
since the beginning of hostilities last week. According to the
IDF, a majority are known terrorists.
The Ma’an news agency reported on Thursday that seven Palestinians
were killed in air strikes overnight Wednesday against a
weapons-smuggling tunnel in the southern Gaza town of Rafah. Four
bodies were retrieved from the tunnel on Thursday afternoon.
Another three Palestinians were killed in an air strike in Beit
Lahiya in northern Gaza.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he was satisfied with the IDF
operations so far. Defense officials said that Israel planned to
continue to restrain itself but would begin escalating its
response if the rocket attacks from Gaza continued.
“I’m extremely satisfied by this achievement,” because it signals
“that we mean business and we are not going to accept the massacre
of our civilians on the roads,” Barak told CNN.
The Home Front Command issued new instructions to the general
public in the South on Thursday, banning large outdoor events and
urging residents of towns under fire to remain near bomb shelters.
The IDF remained on high alert along the border with Egypt out of
concern that additional terrorist cells were planning attacks
against Israel, similar to the ones carried out last week near
According to one report on Thursday, the Shin Bet (Israel Security
Agency), which had provided intelligence regarding the attacks
several weeks before they occurred, had recommended that the IDF
attack some members of the cell while they were still in the Gaza
Strip, in an effort to thwart the attack. The IDF, however,
decided not to follow the recommendation out of concern that such
a strike would set off a new conflict with Hamas and other armed
groups in Gaza.
The Shin Bet refused to confirm the report, which first appeared
on Army Radio.
Also on Thursday, the Counter-Terror Bureau in the Prime
Minister’s Office reiterated its warning to Israelis to
immediately leave the Sinai Peninsula due to fears that terrorists
are roaming freely there with plans to attack or kidnap Israeli