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2 rockets hit Sderot as tensions rise on Gaza front
By YAAKOV LAPPIN AND JPOST.COM STAFF
04/03/2013
Projectiles fired into southern Israel for second straight day; IAF strikes targets in Gaza Strip for first time since truce.
 
Two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel landed in open areas near Sderot on Wednesday morning, raising fears that violence could escalate in the area after months of relative quiet.

No injuries or damage were reported in the attacks.

The rockets struck just as parents were dropping off children at schools and kindergartens. The attacks triggered sirens and sent families fleeing for cover. 

The rocket attacks came after the IAF launched airstrikes on Gaza on Tuesday just prior to midnight, the first such operation since a truce ended an eight-day cross-border war in November.

"Occupation planes bombarded an open area in northern Gaza, there were no wounded," a statement from the Hamas Interior Ministry said. The IDF confirmed that it had launched airstrikes on two terror targets in northern Gaza and recorded direct hits.

The airstrike followed the firing of a Palestinian projectile from Gaza  which exploded in southern Israel’s Eshkol region on Tuesday. The explosion occurred in an open area, and did not cause any injuries.

The IDF said it did not immediately know if the projectile was a mortar shell or a rocket.

Earlier on Tuesday, a Palestinian mortar fired at Israel failed to cross the border, and fell inside the Gaza Strip.

An al-Qaida-linked group, Magles Shoura al-Mujahadeen, claimed responsibility for Tuesday's rocket salvo, saying it was responding to the death earlier in the day of a Palestinian prisoner in an Israel jail. There was no immediate claim for Wednesday's rocket fire.

Palestinian officials accused Israel of failing to provide timely medical treatment for the prisoner, Maissara Abu Hamdiyeh, 63, who died of cancer in an Israeli hospital. Israel denied the allegation.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, addressing the developments, said Wednesday, "The IDF struck in Gaza last night, as we see Hamas as being responsible for everything that is fired from the Strip at Israel. We won't allow any routine involving a drizzle of rockets at our civilians and forces. In the Golan Heights, our policy too is that we have no intention of ignoring fire from Syria at Israeli territory, whether intentional or not, and we'll respond to every attack."

UN special envoy to the Middle East Robert Serry expressed concern Wednesday over the "volatile situation" following the rocket attacks.

"It is of paramount importance to refrain from violence in this tense atmosphere and for parties to work constructively in addressing the underlying issues," Serry stated.

He condemned the "indiscriminate firing of rockets into civilian areas" and called on Israel to exercise restraint, saying that an escalation of hostilities could endanger the improvements made in easing the blockade of Gaza in the aftermath of the truce signed to end Operation Pillar of Defense.

Serry stated that the UN would support Egyptian efforts to restore calm and fully implement the ceasefire agreement.

Ben Hartman and Reuters contributed to this report.
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