Gaza rockets continue: Grad hits near Beersheba

Four Border Police officers are injured by rocket overnight; over 50 rockets, mortar shells fired; IAF hits 7 Gaza targets.

Palestinian terrorist 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian terrorist 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian terror groups fired a Grad rocket into Israeli territory that exploded in the Bnei Shimon region near Beersheba Wednesday morning. The rocket exploded in an open area, causing no injuries or damage. Shortly after, three Kassam rockets exploded in open areas in the Eshkol region. Late Tuesday night, four border policemen in the Ashkelon Coast area were injured by shrapnel, one moderately, when a Kassam rocket directly struck a building, after nearly 50 rockets and mortar shells pounded southern Israel.
Israel was expected to escalate its response to the attacks and Defense Minister Ehud Barak held security consultations late Tuesday night to review various options, following one of the worst days of violence in months.
The moderately injured man suffered shrapnel wounds to his legs and Magen David Adom (MDA) paramedics were evacuating him to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon. The other border policeman suffered light injuries.
IAF aircraft struck seven terror targets in the Gaza Strip overnight Tuesday in response to the continued rocket and mortar fire into southern Israel, according to the IDF Spokesman's Office. Palestinians did not immediately report any injuries or deaths resulting from the IAF strikes although at least six were killed in strikes since Monday.
The rocket fire continued early Wednesday morning, with at least twelve rockets falling in the Ashkelon Coast and Eshkol Regional Council areas. No injuries were reported in the attacks, but a structure sustained some damage.
Earlier Tuesday, seven rockets landed in the Lachish region and 22 landed in the Negev. Residents in the Ashkelon and Sdot Negev regions were ordered to stay close to bomb shelters throughout the day.
Police bomb squads spent the day searching for rocket impact areas to recover the remains of the projectiles.
Israel was concerned with the increase in rocket fire but particularly with Hamas’s declared involvement in the attacks, a clear break from its earlier policy not to attack Israel.
Previously, as was demonstrated during the last round of violence with Islamic Jihad in March, Hamas refrained from firing its long-range Grad-model Katyusha rockets into Israeli cities. Instead, it allowed other groups, such as Islamic Jihad or the Popular Resistance Committees to fire into Israel.
In the afternoon, the Israel Air Force attacked a motorbike in the central Gaza Strip, wounding one person, who the IDF said was involved in the rocket fire into Israel.
Iron Dome batteries were deployed throughout the South but by the evening they had not been activated. The IDF said the batteries were on high alert and were prepared to defend the cities they surround.
Officials at Sapir College near Sderot canceled a graduation ceremony scheduled for Tuesday evening in light of the ongoing rocket fire.
Hamas claimed the rocket attacks are a response to the killings of Palestinians in recent days. The IAF killed at least six Palestinians since Monday, when it launched a series of airstrikes against a sniper and rocket cell.
Meanwhile Tuesday, Reuters obtained a video showing a group of masked men who claimed responsibility for the attack along the Egyptian border on Monday, during which terrorists killed an Israeli Arab construction worker. The men said they were part of a newly formed Islamic movement called “The Shura Council of Mujahideen in the Holy Land.”
The masked men used Islamic slogans, pledging to liberate the Holy Land from what they termed Jewish control.
A second video showed two men, one of whom said they were about to embark on a mission to attack “the Zionist forces on the border of Egypt and occupied Palestine,” an apparent reference to Monday’s incident on the Sinai border.
The first man said he was an Egyptian named Abu Salah al- Masri. The other said he came from Saudi Arabia and gave his name as Abu Huthiyfa al-Rathali.
The videos could not immediately be verified.
“The more things deteriorate, the closer we come to a decision we don’t want to make,” Vice Premier Silvan Shalom said.
“The prospect of a ground operation [in the Gaza Strip] shouldn’t frighten us," Shalom said. “If this situation escalates, and I hope it won’t, then all options are open,” he told Israel Radio. “They know it. We know it. The international community knows it.”
Reuters and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.