(photo credit: Associated Press)
A top Hamas commander was killed and another 11 Gazans were wounded late on
Friday night by an Israeli air strike that came in response to a Katyusha attack
on Ashkelon earlier in the day.
RELATED:Arab League endorses direct talksOpinion: One Ready to Attack — One Preparing to be Attacked
Palestinians continued firing rockets
over the weekend.
Late Saturday evening, a Kassam rocket was fired from
the Gaza Strip toward the western Negev.
The rocket landed outside of
Sderot, hitting a public building that was empty at the time. There were no
reports of casualties, but the building’s roof and three rooms inside it were
Hamas officials in Gaza identified the dead man as Issa Batran,
42, a commander of the group’s Izzadin Kassam military wing in central Gaza and
a senior rocket maker.
According to Hamas, Batran had survived several
previous Israeli attempts to kill him, but his wife and five of his children
died during an attempt to target him in the Bureij refugee camp during Operation
Cast Lead in January 2009.
“Hamas will not be quiet over the blood of its
martyrs,” spokesman Hamad al- Rakab said. “Israel is opening all the gates of
fire. This blood will cascade into rage and fire.”IAF missiles target smuggling tunnel
Israel Air Force
missiles also targeted a smuggling tunnel along the Gaza-Egyptian border and a
weapons manufacturing plant in the central Strip.
The Grad-model Katyusha
rocket that struck southern Ashkelon on Friday morning damaged an apartment
building and sent a number of residents into shock. The attack, attributed to
Hamas, was a sharp break from the terrorist group’s policy since Operation Cast
Lead of refraining from rocket attacks against Israel.
said it was possible that the rocket, which broke a period of relative quiet in
the South, came in response to the Arab League’s decision on Thursday to
authorize the Palestinian Authority to negotiate directly with
“The IDF remains committed to protecting the citizens of Israel
and will continue to act against terrorism. The IDF holds Hamas solely
responsible for terrorism emanating from the Gaza Strip,” the army said in a
In closed talks, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said of the
attack, “Israel views this very seriously.”
The Foreign Ministry said
that the attack was a clear violation of international law and asked its
ambassador to the UN in New York, Gabriela Shalev, to complain to the Security
Council. The ministry also asked its ambassador in Geneva, Aharon Leshno Yaar,
to send a letter to the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Navanethem Pillay
asking her to condemn the attack.
“The indiscriminate launching of
rockets at civilians and civilian objects amounts to war crimes and crimes
against humanity,” he wrote. He noted that it came just after the Arab League
had authorized the Palestinian Authority to enter direct talks with
The attack “seriously violates international law and undermines
the peace process and the efforts to renew direct negotiations between Israel
and the Palestinian Authority,” said the ambassador.UN calls rocket attack an act of terrorism
The United Nations
in Israel issued an unusually harsh statement against the rocket attack through
Richard Miron, spokesman for UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Process
Serry regularly issues condemnations of Israel. But on
Friday his office said that the rocket attack on Ashkelon was an act of
terrorism. “Indiscriminate rocket fire against civilians is completely
unacceptable and constitutes a terrorist attack.
“We call on the de-facto
authorities in Gaza to ensure that these kinds of actions do not
“Violent actions must not be allowed to undermine progress in the
ongoing talks between Israel and the Palestinians. We urge all parties to
exercise restraint and abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention and international
law,” said Serry’s office.
The US response by contrast was more
“The United States is deeply concerned about rocket attacks
originating in Gaza and calls on all parties to protect innocent lives. In an
effort to avoid an escalation of the situation, we encourage all parties to
exercise restraint,” a State Department official said Friday.Herb Keinon
and Hilary Krieger contributed to this report