IDF strikes Gaza after rocket barrage slams South

Palestinians say Hamas targets hit by IAF planes; 6 mortar shells land in Eshkol, 12 rockets fired deep into Israel; Barak condemns attacks.

Police sapper carries Grad rocket in Ashdod 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)
Police sapper carries Grad rocket in Ashdod 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)
Palestinian officials reported on Thursday evening that the IAF carried out air strikes on buildings belonging to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Initial reports suggest that a number of people were injured during the strikes.
Shorty after the IDF finished its operations in the Gaza Strip, 6 mortar shells landed in open fields in the Eshkol Regional Council on Thursday evening. No injuries were reported and no damage was caused.
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Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that Israel will not tolerate firing against its citizens. Speaking at a joint press conference with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates in Tel Aviv, Barak said that the IDF knows what it needs to do and will work to make sure that there is not an escalation.
"Hamas is the only one that is responsible for these attacks," the defense minister said.
At the same time that Barak was speaking, a rocket fired from Gaza landed in Sderot. No injuries were reported and no damage was caused.
In Gaza, Senior Islamic Jihad leader Khaled al-Tash said that his terrorist group is ready to make moves that would calm the situation in the Strip but that things could evolve if "Zionist aggression" continues, Israel Radio reported Thursday.
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said "We must break the equilibrium under which Hamas fires and we retaliate. We can not accept a situation in which citizens become hostages."
When asked during an interview with Channel 2 if Israel will consider a full scale ground invasion to Gaza, Ahronovitch replied, "I do not want to specify what the military options are but we must stop the war of attrition."
"We must realize that this can end in tragedy. What if, god forbid, recent attacks had ended in dozens of casualties," asked Aharonovitch.  "We would have been forced to take much more severe or comprehensive action," he added.
In light of the ongoing rocket threat, classes will not be held Friday in Ashdod, the mayor announced on Thursday. Ashdod Mayor Yehiel Lasri decided to close schools through Sunday, saying he could not take responsibility for “endangering the security of any child in the city.”
Classes will also not be held in Kiryat Gat schools, it was reported Thursday.
Rockets landed in and  north of Ashdod on Thursday afternoon and sirens were heard in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gedera and Gan Yavne. Another rocket landed in the Eshkol Regional Council, the eighth rocket attack since Thursday morning.
IDF tanks shot into Gaza on Thursday, injuring one man, according to Palestinian sources, following five rockets launched from Gaza into Israel.
The strike came after the IAF struck four targets in Gaza Strip in the early morning, and after Palestinians fired about a dozen rockets and mortars across the border, striking deep into Israel.
The tanks shells were aimed at a Hamas facility in Gaza City, which reportedly burst into flames. Earlier Thursday, the IAF bombed terrorists that were attempting to shoot rockets into Israel.
Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon said on Thursday that Israel "will not tolerate any escalation."
Speaking in the US, Ya'alon said that Israel will not tolerate "terrorist attacks or shooting rockets at our citizens."
He said that the war against terror "requires a long battle, but it will not stop us from taking care of whomever shoots at Israel as they have in the last few days or [of whomever] sends terrorists to the center of cities."
"Whoever does this will not be immune to a decisive attack," Ya'alon said. "Hamas is responsible for everything that is shot out of Gaza and if it does not take responsibility, it will pay the price."
Since Thursday morning, three Kassam rockets, one Grad missile and a mortar shell were shot into Israel from Gaza. Grad missiles landed in and north of Ashdod. A previous report erroneously said that a rocket landed in the Rishon Lezion area.
Hamas said Israel targeted smuggling tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border as well as one of its training camps in central Gaza.
A third strike hit a power transformer, causing blackouts in the area, witnesses said. Medical workers said no one was injured in the strikes.
The IDF confirmed that IAF strikes were carried out in Gaza in response to earlier rocket attacks and that direct hits on multiple targets were recorded.
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.