Escalation in South: 8 hurt, 1 seriously, by Gaza rockets

One man seriously injured in the Eshkol Regional Council, airlifted to hospital; Palestinians fire over 40 rockets into South from Gaza; barrage of rockets follows IAF strike on Gaza that kills PRC chief Qaisi.

Qassam rocket 311 (photo credit: Amir Cohen/Reuters)
Qassam rocket 311
(photo credit: Amir Cohen/Reuters)
Magen David Adom paramedics said late Friday night that a total of eight people had been injured by rocket and mortal shell fire from Gaza. Palestinian terrorists fired approximately 40 rockets from Gaza into southern Israel on Friday night after an air strike killed the secretary general of the Popular Resistance Committees, Zuhair Qaisi.
In the Eshkol Regional Council a 40-year-old man was seriously injured, a second man was moderately injured by shrapnel in his stomach and a third was lightly injured. Paramedics said the injured appear to be foreign workers. An electric pole and a vehicle were also damaged in the attack.
Two additional people were lightly injured in a car accident that occurred during an air raid siren at the Emunim Junction between Ashdod and Ashkelon. Three other people in the South were lightly injured while fleeing for cover during sirens. One other civilian was being treated for shock.
The injured have been taken to the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot and the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, as well as the Soroka Medical Center in Be'ersheba. In the  Be'er Tuvia area, police located a rocket explosion site. The windows of a home were shattered and a car was damaged. No injuries were reported.
Police said late Friday night that two rockets were fired from Gaza at Ashdod and a third in the direction of Kiryat Malachi.
No injuries or damages were reported.
Earlier on Friday, three rockets were fired at the greater Ashdod region, where an air raid siren rang out, before three explosions were heard.
The barrage of rockets followed an IAF air strike that killed the secretary general of the Popular Resistance Committees, Zuhair Qaisi.
Since the initial air strike, the IAF continued operations over Gazan skies to track down rocket launching crews, and struck two cells making final preparations to fire high-trajectory rockets into Israel. One of the terror cells was in central Gaza and the other in northern Gaza. The IDF confirmed hits on its targets.
The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) swiftly called for retaliation following the first IAF strike that killed Qaisi, as well as senior PRC member Ahmad Hanini. A third man was also injured in the attack. The IAF struck a vehicle in a move to thwart a large-scale terror attack that was in its last stages of preparation, according to the IDF spokesperson.
Qaisi was one of the planners of the deadly terror attack last August on Route 12 near the Egyptian border, in which eight Israelis were murdered. In 2008, he was involved in a terror attack on a gas depot at Nahal Oz. He was also involved in the carrying out of rocket and mortar attacks on southern Israel, and oversaw the transfer of funds from Hezbollah to terrorist organizations in Gaza. Hanini, in the past, dispatched a suicide bomber into Israel.
The PRC responded with threats to reignite tensions along the testy frontier. "All options are open before the fighters to respond to this despicable crime. The assassination of our chief will not end our resistance," Abu Attiya, a spokesman for the PRC group said.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Israel was responsible for what he called "a grave escalation."
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also condemned the strike.
The IDF stated that the attack was part of an operation to thwart the intentions of terrorists to carry out terror attacks in Sinai, along the border between Israel and Egypt. Qaisi had been planning and leading over the past few days, a major terror attack against Israeli targets, and the strike was conducted in order to prevent the attack, the IDF said in a statement.
It added that the IDF was not interested in escalation but was ready to defend Israel and would respond forcefully and decisively against against any attempt at terrorist activity.
The first IAF strike happened shortly after two mortar shells were fired at Israel from the Hamas-ruled territory, causing no damage or injury. The explosions occurred in open fields in the Eshkol regional council, which abuts the border with the Gaza Strip.
Senior IDF officials reacted to the mortal shell attacks, telling Army Radio that they would not allow the firing to continue. The officials expressed surprise that, with no reason, the shooting at civilians from Gaza continued "on Friday too... at villages surrounding Gaza." They also stressed that the mortar shell attacks had been unprovoked, and were carried out when there had been no previous IDF action in Gaza.
Reuters contributed to this report