In a renewed burst of violence, Israeli artillery fired a shell at a group of Hamas terrorists who had just launched a group of rockets at Israel from Gaza on Monday, killing five Palestinians, including a woman and her grandson, and wounding several others.
The morning attack took place in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, where Palestinian terrorists had earlier fired seven Kassam rockets at southern Israel, including two which landed near Ashkelon.
The military said its attacks were aimed at two groups of Hamas terrorists firing rockets at southern Israel, and that it regretted any civilian casualties.
Three of the Palestinians killed by the shell were identified as Saadi Ahmed, 30; Sadek Nasser, 32; and Nasser's 14-year-old cousin, Salah Nasser, The Associated Press reported. The two other victims, who were killed while riding on a donkey cart, were a 60-year-old woman and her 12-year-old grandson, Palestinian medics said.
Islamic Jihad said it fired the two rockets at Ashkelon to mark a visit to the region by "the Zionist Condoleezza Rice," referring to the US secretary of state.
"Let Rice go to hell," a senior Hamas leader, Osama al-Muzaini, told Reuters.
In an earlier attack on Monday, an Israel Air Force helicopter fired a missile at a two-story house at the entrance to the Shati refugee camp next to Gaza City which was being used by Palestinian terror groups as a ammunition storage depot.
The house, which belonged to a Hamas member, was used by both Hamas and Islamic Jihad as a storage facility for rockets and weapons, the military said.
There were no injuries reported in the air strike, but the house was damaged in the attack.
The air force attack on the private home in Gaza came just days after the military warned Palestinian residents that anyone who was hiding weapons in their homes for terrorists could face attack, similar to some of the measures the military has used in its offensive against Hizbullah in Lebanon.
Until now, Israeli forces have primarily attacked empty Palestinian government buildings and open areas that terrorists used to fire rockets at Israel.
The military on Monday again accused the Palestinian terror groups of using civilians as "human shields," while launching rockets at Israel from populated areas.
The back-to-back attacks Monday were the latest Israeli military operations against terror suspects in the Gaza Strip, following last month's daring cross-border Hamas raid on an Israeli military outpost near the border, in which two soldiers were killed and a third, 19-year-old Cpl. Gilad Shalit, was abducted.
Despite repeated Israeli military incursions into the Strip to halt cross-border rocket attacks, Palestinian terrorists have launched about 200 rockets from Gaza at Israel in the last month alone.
More than 100 Palestinians - the vast majority of them gunmen - have been killed in Gaza since the Israeli military operation began last month.