IAF strike kills 1 Fatah man, hurts 3

16 in shock as missile hits Ashkelon home, another lands near kindergarten; 12 Kassams hit w. Negev.

Gaza rubble brill 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Gaza rubble brill 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Hours after IDF soldiers returned to Israel from northern Gaza after completing the first stage of Operation Hot Winter, one Fatah operative was killed and three others were wounded in an IAF air strike in Gaza, Palestinians reported. The IDF verified the report, and said that the air strike targeted a Kassam rocket launching cell. The strike came shortly after a Grad missile slammed into the seventh floor of an apartment building in central Ashkelon on Monday morning. Another two Grads hit the city, one landing near a kindergarten. 16 people were treated for shock after the morning attack. In addition, eight Kassam rockets landed in the Sderot area and four hit a neighborhood in the Eshkol region. No one was wounded and no damage was reported. On Sunday night, Givati Brigade infantry and Armored Corps battalions completed the first stage of the northern Gaza operation which began over the weekend and soldiers who had been operating in the territory returned to Israel. However, IDF sources told Israel Radio that counter-terror operations would continue. IDF officials said that an estimated 100 Palestinians were killed during the operation and some 90 were arrested. On Sunday, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said that, contrary to media reports, 90 of the Palestinian fatalities were gunmen. Palestinian medical officials said that 116 Palestinians were killed and some 350 wounded during the military campaign. Meanwhile, Hamas media outlets on Monday morning described the IDF exit from northern Gaza as a defeat and said Israel failed in its attempts to stop the rocket fire. A Hamas radio host said that "although Israel claimed it would remain in the territory for weeks, this morning, its defeated soldiers withdrew." Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that Gaza would "always be a graveyard for the occupying forces." A spokesman for Izzadin Kassam, Hamas's armed wing, said that the group would continue to fire rockets at Israel. Security officials had earlier stressed that the IDF operation was not part of a large-scale campaign which leaders have said may come if rocket fire continues, Army Radio reported. Meanwhile the IDF carried out several air strikes in Gaza overnight Sunday, killing five Hamas operatives, Palestinian sources reported. The army said aircraft targeted weapons storage and manufacturing facilities.