2 children, woman lightly wounded by rocket in Ashkelon

3 rockets land in Ashkelon, hitting a house and parked car; 10 Palestinians killed, 20 wounded in IDF operations in northern Gaza Strip.

Kassam removed 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Kassam removed 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Three people were lightly wounded by a Grad-type Katyusha rocket that landed in Ashkelon early Saturday. Two of the casualties were young children. Three rockets were fired at Ashkelon in the early morning hours, causing several people to suffer from shock and damaging property. One of the rockets directly hit a house in the city, causing its residents to suffer from shock. A third rocket hit a parked car, which consequently burst into flames. At the same time, two Kassam rockets were fired at Sderot from the Gaza Strip. One rocket landed inside the city. There were no reports of damage or casualties. Approximately 14 rockets were fired at Israel overnight Friday. Ten Palestinians, including five civilians, were killed Saturday in escalating Israeli-Palestinian fighting that renewed threats of an Israeli invasion of Gaza. A baby and two teenagers were among the dead. In all, at least 20 Palestinian civilians - the youngest a 6-month-old boy - and 21 terrorists have been killed since clashes between Israel and Hamas terrorists spiked Wednesday when an Israeli student at Sapir College in Sderot was killed by a Kassam rocket. Hamas said the baby, Malak Karfaneh, was killed and three other civilians were wounded in an Israeli strike on Beit Hanoun, a northern town where Palestinians often launch rockets at Israel. But local residents said one of those rockets fell short and landed in the area of the baby's house. The IDF, which sent troops, tanks and aircraft after Gaza rocket squads, said it only attacks rocket-launching operations, but noted that terrorists sometimes operate within civilian areas. Fierce fighting erupted Saturday east of the town of Jebaliya, and at least nine Palestinians were killed, medical officials said. Among those killed were at least three gunmen, but also four civilians, including a 17-year-old girl and her 16-year-old brother and a 45-year-old man and his 20-year-old son, the officials said. Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i told Army Radio that Israel had "no other choice" but to launch a massive military operation in Gaza. "We will use all our strength in every way we deem appropriate, whether in air strikes or on the ground," Vilna'i said. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, dismissed Vilnai's comments, saying: "We are not afraid of these threats." The IDF has notified the government it is ready to launch a major ground offensive as soon as it is ordered to do so, defense officials said. Nothing is expected for the next week or two, in part because the military prefers to wait for clearer weather, they added. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on Israel to stop all attacks in Gaza and urged Palestinians to halt the rocket fire. "It is in the interest of the Palestinian people not to give Israel any pretext to continue its aggressions," a statement from his office said. US State Department spokesman Tom Casey denounced Hamas' rocket attacks as "completely unacceptable" and demanded they stop. He also said the US regularly urges Israel to consider the consequences of its actions and to pay careful attention to the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people. A relatively quiet Friday morning in Sderot was shattered at midday when a Kassam rocket fired from Gaza hit a house as a family was eating lunch. Four people were reported suffering from shock after the rocket slammed into a room adjacent to where the family was dining. A total of 16 rockets have been fired at southern Israel since Friday morning. Most landed in open areas, causing no wounded or damage. Hamas's armed wing, Izzadin Kassam, claimed responsibility for firing five rockets at Israel, one of which misfired, injuring five Gazans. In addition, Palestinian medical officials said that nine Palestinians were wounded in four separate IAF strikes in northern Gaza, adding that among the wounded were two young boys, aged five and six. The army said that it targeted rocket launching sites in Beit Lahiya and Jabalya. Overnight Thursday, IDF Givat Brigade troops, backed up by tanks, struck at two terror cells during routine counter-terror operations in northern Gaza. The IDF reported hits on both of the cells. Meanwhile, Egyptian Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman has postponed his upcoming trip to Israel, planned for the middle of next week. Suleiman informed Defense Minister Ehud Barak of his decision on Friday morning. Jerusalem officials estimated that the reason for the postponement was the escalation in the Gaza Strip and also cited Suleiman's concerns that the IDF is about to embark on a large-scale operation in the territory. Cairo is trying to arrange anther date for the trip, Israel Radio reported. Barak explained the state of affairs to Britain, Russia and the US and told their respective foreign ministers that if the Gaza situation deteriorates further, Hamas will be responsible for the consequences.