Barak to allow aid into Gaza Strip

No wounded as Grad rocket hits Ashkelon Thursday night; Hamas threatens to renew suicide bombing.

kassam cell mounting rockets 248 ap (photo credit: AP)
kassam cell mounting rockets 248 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Rocket attacks showed no signs of respite on Thursday night as Gaza terrorists fired a Grad-type rocket at Ashkelon. The rocket impacted in an open area near an industrial zone, causing no wounded or damage. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided to open the crossings into Gaza on Friday morning in order to allow humanitarian aid through. A statement put out by the Defense Ministry said that the decision to open the crossings was made after consulting the relevant departments in the security establishment and following requests from the international community. Earlier, a Kassam rocket fired by Palestinians hit an open field in the Ashkelon Beach region as another rocket landed near a Sha'ar Hanegev kibbutz. No casualties or damage were reported in either attack. Meanwhile, Hamas reiterated its threat that if Israel chooses to launch a military campaign in the Gaza Strip, the Islamic group will renew suicide bombings in Israeli territory. "We are taking the threats seriously, and we won't stop at rockets," added Ismail al-Ashkar, the head of the Hamas faction in the Palestinian parliament, Army Radio reported. Earlier, three rockets landed in and around Kibbutz Sha'ar Hanegev, one damaging a fence surrounding the community. In addition, a mortar shell struck the Erez border crossing while Christian pilgrims were crossing into Israel to reach Bethlehem for Christmas Day. "Luckily nobody was injured," said Defense Ministry spokesman Peter Lerner. "From what I understand, the mortar did not explode; that probably would explain why nobody was injured." Meanwhile, Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu blamed Kadima for the ongoing rocket fire. "In the last 24 hours, and at this very moment, missiles and Kassams are falling on Sderot, Ashkelon, Netivot, Sha'ar Hanegev, and the circle is widening," he said. Speaking at the first meeting of the security-diplomatic team he assembled, the Likud chair called the "lawlessness... a direct result of the capabilities of those that lead Kadima." Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned that terrorists in the Gaza Strip would pay a "heavy price" if they continued to target Israel. Barak insisted that "we will not accept this situation... Whoever harms the citizens and soldiers of Israel will pay a heavy price," he said. Meanwhile, the leftist Meretz-Hatnua Hahadasha party issued a rare call for IDF military action, saying that such an operation was necessary to protect the lives of Israeli citizens. "The time has come to act without compromise and without narrow political considerations, to protect the citizens of the Gaza periphery and Sderot," the statement said. "There is no choice but to hit Hamas in a precise way and to act for a renewed ceasefire," the party said. On Wednesday, over 80 rockets and mortar shells were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Israel has so far been restrained in its response, carrying out one air strike later in the day against a Kassam rocket-launching cell which killed one member of the team and wounded two others. Brenda Gazzar contributed to this report In an emergency Security Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Barak ordered the IDF to prepare itself to deliver a "response" to the growing cross-border violence. However, there has been no word as to the timing and extent of such an operation. AP contributed to this report