IAF strike on rocket squad brings Gaza death toll to 16

Over 100 rockets and mortar shells fall on Israel since Friday; school canceled in all towns between 7-40 km from Gaza Strip; Barak expects several days of violence.

Rockets fired from Gaza smoke 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Rockets fired from Gaza smoke 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The IDF continued to target terrorists in the Gaza Strip overnight Saturday, bringing the Palestinian death toll to 16 when one Palestinian man was killed in an IAF strike.
Rocket attacks on Israel continued Sunday morning after over 100 rockets and mortar shells were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip over the weekend.
Two Grad rockets were intercepted by Iron Dome batteries shortly after 7:00 a.m., and two other rockets exploded in southern Israel: one south of Ashkelon and the other in the Eshkol Regional Council. Those rockets landed in open territories and caused no casualties or damages.
The IDF struck terrorists preparing to launch rockets shortly before and after the rocket attacks on Sunday morning, according to Channel 2 news.
On Saturday overnight, the IDF attacked a group of terrorists preparing to launch a projectile at Israeli territory, killing on 24-year-old male and injuring three others, bringing the Palestinian death toll since last Friday to 16.
Rockets wounded eight people on Friday evening. In the Eshkol region, a 40-year-old man was seriously injured by shrapnel, a second man was moderately wounded by shrapnel in his stomach, and a third was lightly injured.
Paramedics said the injured were foreign workers.
The IDF Home Front Command along with the heads of a number of local authorities in the South decided on Saturday night to cancel school in all towns and cities located between 7 km. and 40 km. of the Gaza Strip.
Due to the decision, approximately 200,000 children will stay home on Sunday. The ban applies to Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beersheba, Netivot, Sderot, Kiryat Malachi, Gedera, Rahat, Yavne, Lakiya and the Gan Yavne Regional Council.
smoke trail from rocket seen near Ashkelon (Reuters)
smoke trail from rocket seen near Ashkelon (Reuters)
Schools in the western Negev that are within 7 km. of the Gaza Strip will hold class as usual, as they have the necessary reinforcement to protect against rockets, the Home Front Command said.
The violence started on Friday afternoon when Israel Air Force craft bombed a car in Gaza, killing Zuhair Qaisi, the leader of the Popular Resistance Committees, and another top terrorist in the organization who was recently released in the Gilad Schalit prisoner exchange.
The IDF said it decided to bomb Qaisi’s car due to intelligence that he was plotting a large terrorist attack along the border with Egypt, similar to the one the PRC carried out last August that killed eight Israelis. The IDF decided on Friday to close Route 12 – which runs along the border with Egypt – due to fears that the planned attack might still take place.
While most of the rockets fired from Gaza were shortrange Kassams, some were long-range Grad-model Katyushas that succeeded in hitting 40 km. from the Gaza Strip. The short-range rockets were mostly fired by the PRC and the long-range rockets by Islamic Jihad.
The three Iron Dome batteries deployed in Ashdod, Ashkelon and Beersheba succeeded in interpreting 27 rockets fired from Gaza out of 30 that they tried to shoot down, marking a record-high interception rate of 90 percent.
motorcycle hit by IDF in Gaza (Reuters)
motorcycle hit by IDF in Gaza (Reuters)
The IAF successfully struck 10 terrorist cells as they were planning to fire rockets into Israel as well as eight other targets throughout Gaza. All of the dead were known terrorists, the IDF said.
Touring an Iron Dome battery on Saturday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak predicted that the round of violence would last another couple of days.
“We will not allow people to attack Israeli citizens,” Barak said. “We will take action against anyone who tries to launch a rocket or an attack and they will pay a price. No one has immunity.”
The flareup in Gaza is the worst since October. The escalating violence drew appeals for a cease-fire from the European Union, the West Bankbased Palestinian Authority and Egypt. IDF sources said that Israel was in constant touch with Egypt.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton expressed concern. “I urge all sides to reestablish calm,” she said in a statement.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Muhammad Kamal Amr told state news agency MENA that his government was “making crucial calls for an immediate end to this Israeli escalation, to end bloodshed of our brothers.”
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri called for Egyptian aid, saying Gaza was “sinking in darkness and in blood.”
In the Gaza Strip, thousands attended funerals for the dead gunmen on Saturday, listening to speeches calling for revenge.
Palestinian worshipers near bodies of dead Islamic Jihad members (Reuters)
Palestinian worshipers near bodies of dead Islamic Jihad members (Reuters)
Gaza officials said Israeli troops opened fire on mourners at a burial for an Islamic Jihad gunman attended by hundreds at a cemetery near the Israeli frontier fence, wounding four. The IDF did not have an immediate comment on the incident.
Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, blamed Israel for the violence and called for Western pressure to halt it.
“This Israeli escalation in Gaza is completely condemned and we urge the world community, and the Quartet [of Middle East power brokers], especially the United States, to put enough pressure on the Israeli government to stop this escalation,” Rdainah told Reuters Television.
Jpost.com staff and Reuters contributed to the report.