IAF conducts 35 sorties during seventh day of Cast Lead

Throughout Friday, IAF planes attacked 35 targets in the Strip, including homes of Hamas terrorists, weapons caches, and smuggling tunnels. One air strike targeted the house of top Hamas terror operative Imad Akel on Friday afternoon. It was unclear if Akel was home at the time, but secondary blasts were heard, indicating the presence of weapons and explosives in the home, the IDF said. Palestinians reported that another of the houses struck in the attack belonged to former Hamas refugee minister Atef Adwan. The air force also bombed the home of Hamas terror operative Muhammad Ma'tuk in Jabalya, northern Gaza, the army said. The IDF said that the house was used as an arms warehouse and weapons lab, and also contained an opening to a tunnel used by Hamas. Palestinians and Israeli defense officials said that prior to the air strikes, the IDF either warned nearby residents by phone or fired a warning missile to reduce civilian casualties. IAF aircraft also dropped leaflets east of Gaza giving a confidential phone number and e-mail address for people to report locations of rocket squads. Residents appeared to ignore the leaflets, stepping over them as they passed by. Most of the targeted homes Friday belonged to Hamas terror chiefs and appeared to be empty at the time, but one man was killed in a strike that flattened a building in the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza. Separate air strikes killed two other Palestinians, according to Gaza Health Ministry official Dr. Moaiya Hassanain. IAF aircraft also fired missiles as five smuggling tunnels under the Philadelphi Corridor. The IDF confirmed hitting the tunnels. In addition, the IAF responded swiftly to the morning's attacks on Ashkelon, striking the terror cell responsible for firing four Grad rockets at the city. Fear of IAF attacks led to sparse turnout at Friday's communal prayers at mosques throughout Gaza, but thousands of people attended a memorial service for Rayyan. Throngs of people prayed over the rubble of his home and the destroyed mosque nearby. Overnight Thursday and early Friday, as Operation Cast Lead entered its seventh day, IAF and naval forces attacked some 20 Hamas targets throughout the Gaza Strip. The army said that among the sites targeted was a mosque in Jabalya used as a terror hub by Hamas. The IDF said in a statement that the mosque was used as a storage site for a large amount of Grad missiles and additional weaponry.