IDF strikes targets in Gaza in retaliation to rockets

Israeli airstrikes hit smuggling tunnels along Gaza-Egypt border as well as a Hamas training camp in central Gaza; action follows rocket attacks against Beersheba and Ashkelon; no reports of injured in attack.

By REUTERS
March 24, 2011 02:29
3 minute read.
Smoke rises after IAF bombs in Gaza (Illustrative)

IAF airstrike Gaza_311 reuters. (photo credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters)

 
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IDF aircraft struck targets in the Gaza Strip in the early hours on Thursday, Hamas said, a day after Palestinians fired about a dozen rockets and mortars across the border, striking deep into Israel. There were no reports of injuries in the attacks.

Hamas said Israel targeted smuggling tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border, as well as one of its training camps in central Gaza.

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A third strike hit a power transformer, causing blackouts in the area, witnesses said. Medical workers said no one was injured in the strikes.

The IDF also bombed an abandoned rocket launcher on Thursday morning, AP reported. No one was injured.

The IDF confirmed that several strikes were carried out in Gaza in response to earlier rocket attacks and that direct hits on multiple targets were recorded.

On Wednesday, Israel vowed to retaliate for rocket attacks against Beersheba and Ashkelon as Hamas evacuated most of its manned positions throughout the Gaza Strip in anticipation of IDF air strikes.

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At 5:30 Wednesday morning the first Grad-model Katyusha rocket slammed into Beersheba for the first time in almost a month, lightly wounding one person.

Several hours later, another rocket hit the Negev city.

Yet another rocket landed south of Ashkelon on Wednesday, a day after a rocket fell near Ashdod.


Authorities announced that schools would be closed in Beersheba, Ashdod and Ashkelon on Thursday as a result of the security situation.

Also Wednesday, seven mortar shells containing white phosphorous hit the Eshkol region, followed shortly after by three more near a kibbutz in the Sha’ar Hanegev region. The IAF later destroyed the launcher that was used to fire the rocket into Ashdod.

The Al-Quds Brigades of Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the missile fire, which came after Israel killed four terror operatives in a missile strike on Tuesday night. The four were behind the firing of two Katyusha rockets into Beersheba in late February, the IDF said.

Fearing a further escalation, the IDF Home Front Command ordered residents in Beersheba, Ashkelon and Ashdod to stay close to their homes and near bomb shelters, out of concern that additional rockets will be fired in the coming days from the Gaza Strip.

“The IDF will continue to act to protect Israeli citizens and will take preemptive action along the Gaza border,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said. “There will be highs and lows; not everything will end tomorrow, but we are determined to restore quiet and security to the South.”

Meanwhile, police in the South increased the number of officers and patrol cars on the streets, in response to the threat of further rockets and shells from Gaza.

On Wednesday, the IDF’s Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration coordinated the transfer of an 8-year-old Palestinian boy from the Gaza Strip to Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot after he was injured in an Israeli mortar attack on Tuesday.

The boy was injured after IDF troops fired mortar shells into an open field in northern Gaza and accidentally hit a number of civilians nearby, killing four members of a family and wounding several others, including the boy, who was transferred Wednesday to Israel for medical treatment.

Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.

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