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Palestinian rocket slams into Ashkelon
By YAAKOV LAPPIN, YAAKOV KATZ AND REBECCA ANNA STO
21/03/2011
Rocket alert system rings out across Ashkelon as rocket from Gaza slams into southern part of the city; no physical injuries or damages reported.
 
An escalation in the shelling of southern Israel by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza continued on Sunday, when a Grad-type rocket fired from Gaza slammed into southern Ashkelon in the evening hours. Two residents suffered shock as a result of the blast, and were taken to a clinic for medical treatment.

A rocket alert system rang out across Ashkelon at around 7:20 p.m., local officials said.

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A police spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday evening that bomb squad officers were searching for the location of impact.

“We believe this was a Grad rocket,” the spokeswoman said, adding, “No physical injuries or damages were reported.”

Earlier on Sunday, a mortar and two Kassam rockets were fired at southern Israel, security officials said.

On Saturday, a significant escalation in Palestinian shelling of southern Israel occurred when 50 mortars were fired at farming communities in the western Negev. A man and his wife were injured by shrapnel as they sought shelter in a safe zone.

As Purim drew to an end on Sunday night, the IDF was expected to respond firmly to the increase in Palestinian attacks.

Earlier responses may have been more muted, due to the hope of defense chiefs to spare southern communities more Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks.

Also on Sunday, violence continued to flare up along the border with Gaza, as an IDF tank came under missile fire.

Palestinian gunmen in the northern part of the strip fired a guided antitank missile at the Merkava Mk 4, which was equipped with the IDF’s new active-protection system known as Trophy.

The system detected the launch, but did not initiate counter-measures, as the missile was off-target and did not pose a threat. It immediately provided the tank crew with the coordinates of the spot from which the missile had been launched. The crew then returned fire, wounding at least one of the gunmen.

Sunday’s incident was the second time the Trophy system had been put to the test since being deployed along the Gaza border several months ago with Battalion 9 of the 401st Armored Brigade. In both instances, it was declared to have worked perfectly.

On Saturday night, IDF tanks opened fire on two Palestinians moving suspiciously in a border area considered off limits. Medical officials in Gaza said the two, known to be gunmen, were killed.

In the wake of continued rocket attacks, key figures – in both the coalition and opposition – united in recent days in calls for military action against Hamas.

“Hamas doesn’t recognize our right to exist here – it isn’t a partner for peace, or for any agreement – and the right way to deal with it is force,” said opposition leader Tzipi Livni over the weekend. “That is why Israel decided on Operation Cast Lead. In everything that is related to the civilians’ ability to cope with the rocket fire and to the activities against Hamas, there are no arguments between opposition and coalition.”

Livni was not alone in her allusions to previous IDF operations directed against terror infrastructures in the Gaza Strip.

Former IDF Spokeswoman and Likud MK Miri Regev warned that “certain terror groups should not test the IDF again.” Regev described Saturday morning’s mortar bombardment of communities located near the Gaza Strip as “a serious incident which is a dangerous provocation by Hamas, which controls Gaza.”

“For such provocations, a price must be paid,” Regev said.
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