Israel takes out rocket squad in Gaza, killing 2

On fourth day of clashes, nearly 100 rockets fired

Israeli rescue personnel care for a woman injured as a grad rocket from the Gaza Strip hits the southern city of Ashdod, March 12, 2012. (photo credit: Flash90)
Israeli rescue personnel care for a woman injured as a grad rocket from the Gaza Strip hits the southern city of Ashdod, March 12, 2012. (photo credit: Flash90)

The IDF spokesman’s office confirmed a successful targeting of Palestinian terrorists in northern Gaza, Monday night. According to the report, two terrorists were killed while attempting to fire rockets on Israel.

More than 50 rockets landed in Israel on Monday, injuring three civilians, while the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted 23 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip.

That brings to more than 200 the number of rockets fired at Israel — with Iron Dome succeeding in intercepting more than 50 of them — since the Israel Air Force carried out a targeted assassination against a terror leader in Gaza on Friday.

Earlier Monday, one rocket hit a car in Ashdod, wounding two Israelis and damaging a building and several cars. Several other rockets fell in an open field. Mortars also fell near the Gaza border fence, causing no damage.

Local police said residents had become negligent in following Home Front Command directives, putting their faith in Iron Dome’s capabilities. Home Front Command officer Maj. Gen. (Res) Gil Shenhar said that while Iron Dome had proven itself, residents should use caution and follow instructions closely.

The Red Alert siren was heard in Rehovot as well, and an explosion was heard in the area.

Israeli authorities again ordered schools closed in much of the south for Tuesday, as a ceasefire proved elusive.

Earlier Monday afternoon, three rockets were fired at Beersheba, with two being shot down by the Iron Dome anti-missile system and one landing in an open area. No injuries or damage were reported.

Rockets were also reported in the area of the Sha’ar Henegev regional council and near Gedera.

The Israeli military said it carried out nine air attacks against rocket-launching sites and a weapons storage facility early Monday. Islamic Jihad said two of its terrorists were killed in two separate raids.

A father and his daughter were killed in Gaza’s Beit Lahiya district early on Monday afternoon, Palestinian officials said.

A 16-year-old boy wearing a school uniform was reported killed when a group of five civilians was struck in another attack, Gaza health official Adham Abu Salmia said. Israel denied it had conducted any air strikes in northern Gaza then, saying the last time it had struck the area was in the early hours of Monday. Journalists’ examinations confirmed the Israeli claims.

According to an AFP correspondent at the scene, there were no signs of any impact on the ground which could have been caused by a missile, with the most likely cause of his death being some kind of explosive device he was carrying.

Palestinian sources put the death toll in Gaza since the start of hostilities at 23.

Another strike in Gaza City wounded some two dozen people, including several children, health officials said. Israeli military sources said the air strike had targeted an ammunition store on the ground floor of a residential building; Palestinian sources said the strike had been aimed at the commander of a network of missile-firing cells.

Six rockets were fired toward Ashdod in mid-morning — five of them intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system, and the sixth falling on open ground. Two missiles landed north of Beersheba, and there were alerts in Ashkelon. In late morning, two more rockets were fired at Gan Yavneh.

Three mortars fired from Gaza fell short and damaged two trucks carrying equipment on the Palestinian side of the Karni border crossing with Israel. Operations at the crossing, a major conduit of supplies into Gaza from Israel, were suspended but later resumed. The other main crossing into Gaza, the Erez Crossing, has also remained in operation during the hostilities, according to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

While the fighting has raged on, top Israel officials have made clear that they do not intend for the conflagration to expand beyond air strikes into a ground war. Nonetheless, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon told Israel Radio that the possibility of a ground offensive did exist. He said Israel would keep targeting terrorists and their infrastructure in Gaza until terror groups internalized that it was not in their interests to fire at Israel.
Both Ya’alon and Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that if Hamas put an end to the rocket attacks and restored quiet from Gaza, then Israel would maintain quiet as well.

Hamas had not directly entered the fighting as of Monday afternoon, and has been criticized by Islamic Jihad for its failure to do so. A Hamas spokesman said on Monday morning that Hamas was in fact “very active” in numerous ways. Hamas has Fajr missiles that can reach as far as Tel Aviv, Israeli officials have said, but has thus far chosen not to use them.

The Palestinian Authority urged the United Nations to condemn Israel’s “war crimes”; Israel on Sunday had urged the UN to condemn the rocket attacks.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld reported that schools in the area were closed for a second day to avoid casualties; a day earlier, a rocket struck the courtyard of one of the empty schools in Beersheba. About a million Israelis are in range of the Gaza missiles.

But although the violence shows no immediate signs of subsiding, both Hamas and Israel seem eager to avoid the kind of all-out war that erupted three years ago.

Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the military spokesman, said Monday that Israel was prepared for a ground offensive if necessary. He also said Israeli military chief Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz has postponed a trip this week to the US because of the fighting.

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