Rocket damage in house 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen)
Over 120 rockets and mortar shells slammed into Israel over the weekend as the
IDF hammered the Gaza Strip and threatened to open a large ground offensive to
stop the rocket attacks.
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Five Israelis were reportedly wounded when
scrambling to enter bomb shelters as rockets were being fired.
the day, a number of messages were relayed to Israel by various mediators with
an offer of a cease-fire from Hamas’s political echelon in the Gaza
Defense officials said Hamas appeared to be split and that while
its Izzadin Kassam military wing, led by Ahmed Jabari, was continuing to attack
Israel, this was being done against the position of the political echelon led by
Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.
The round of violence began on
Thursday when Gazans fired an anti-tank missile at a school bus, critically
wounding a 16- year-old boy and lightly injuring the driver. Hamas rocket and
mortar attacks continued throughout Friday and Saturday in Beersheba, Ashkelon,
Ashdod, Ofakim, Sderot and other Gaza-belt communities.
The Iron Dome
counter-rocket defense system intercepted 10 Katyusha and Kassam rockets over
the weekend that were fired in the direction of Ashkelon and Beersheba, where
the two batteries are deployed.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak called the
successful interception by the missile defense system “an extraordinary
achievement for the IDF.”
Defense officials said more than 20 Hamas
operatives were killed over the weekend and that dozens of others were wounded
by a series of air strikes against Hamas positions, bases and launch
The IAF carried out at least 46 strikes in Gaza.
been hit hard and we will continue to strike at them as long as the rocket and
terrorist attacks continue,” a senior defense official said on Saturday
Early on Saturday morning, the air force bombed a car in Rafah,
killing three senior Hamas commanders including the head of Hamas in the
Israel blamed the slain commander for a rocket strike on Eilat
launched from Sinai a fewmonths ago.
He was also said to have been involved in the 2006 kidnapping
of IDF soldier Gilad Schalit.
Defense officials said the current
operation was designed to create a new balance of power with Hamas. The
officials said that the deterrence created following Operation Cast Lead two
years ago has eroded and as a result it was necessary to create new
understandings with the terrorist organization in Gaza.
reviewing the ceasefire proposal but would not accept a situation under which it
halted military operations and continued to sustain rocket attacks from the Gaza
Strip, they said. The success of Iron Dome was creating diplomatic
maneuverability that was allowing the government more time to decide on the
proposal, the officials said.
On Friday, the IAF bombed a terrorist cell
that was behind the firing of Grad-model Katyusha rockets into Ashkelon earlier
in the day, killing a senior Hamas field commander.
Saturday, Hamas threatened to escalate it attacks and to hit a wider range of
targets deeper inside Israel if the IDF refused to halt its aerial assaults on
the Gaza Strip.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri blamed Israel for the rise
“If the Israeli escalation continues, amid international
silence and complicity, the reactions by resistance factions will broaden,” he
told Reuters, saying such actions would be necessary to protect Palestinians in
At the same time as it made the threats, however, the group seemed
to be attempting to calm the situation.
Abu Zuhri said that Hamas
operatives did not intend to target Israeli schoolchildren when they fired a
guided missile at a school bus on Thursday.
“It was not known that the
bus targeted on the outskirts of Gaza carried schoolchildren,” Abu Zuhri said,
adding that the road where the bus was traveling was often used by IDF
vehicles.Jerusalem Post staff and Reuters contributed to the report.