By YAAKOV KATZ, JPOST.COM STAFF
The Israeli Air Force struck four targets in the Gaza Strip Thursday night, in response to the firing of a Katyusha rocket which landed near Ashkelon earlier in the night.
The air force targeted several smuggling tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip, as well as a tunnel which the army said was intended for infiltration of terrorists into Israel. A weapons manufacturing facility was also bombed.
All of the IAF jets struck their intended targets and returned safely from the mission, the IDF said.
Palestinians said three men were killed and two were wounded in the strikes.
Dr. Salam Abu Salem of Rafah Hospital says the bodies of two men killed when missiles hit a tunnel under the Gaza-Egypt border have reached his hospital. An AP Television News cameraman saw a third body being removed later from the same tunnel.
Just after Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the Iron Dome missile defense system would not be enough to solve all the problems in the South, the scale of those problems was made all too clear when, for the first time since Operation Cast Lead, a Katyusha landed south of Ashkelon.
The rocket landed in an open field, causing no casualties or damage.
Air sirens sounded throughout the area, causing panic among the residents, who for the past year have enjoyed a period of quiet.
Earlier Thursday, terrorists in Gaza fired an anti-tank missile at IDF troops near the periphery fence.
Soldiers returned fire toward the source of the attack.
No casualties were reported.
That attack came after at least ten mortar shells launched from Gaza hit open areas in Israel's South.
No one was wounded and no damage was reported in the mortar shell barrage.
The Popular Resistance Committee claimed responsibility for firing the shells, saying they were in revenge for an IAF strike several days ago that killed two of the group's men.
Following the attacks, the Defense Ministry closed the Kerem Shalom border crossing until further notice. Dozens of aid-carrying trucks were waiting on the Israeli side to enter the Gaza Strip.
Also on Thursday, the Israel Air Force dropped several thousand leaflets over the Gaza Strip in several locations, warning residents of the Strip not to come within 300 meters of the border fence between Gaza and Israel and to avoid cooperating with terror operatives.
Another leaflet called on Gaza residents not to sit idly by while operatives digging tunnels under the Gaza Strip's southern border were putting their lives in peril.
The leaflets contained a phone number and email address for Gazans to report those involved in digging the smuggling tunnels.
The mortar shell barrage came a day after OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant warned that the quiet in Israel's South may be temporary.
"It's true that we are after the first rains and the sun is shining - but one can see dark clouds in the distance," the general said during a tour with heads of regional councils marking a year since Operation Cast Lead.
"It is important that we value the significance of quiet for the residents. Quiet allows those living here to develop infrastructures and agriculture as well as economic prosperity," Galant said. "When one looks [at the situation] a year ago, one can say that in terms of the goals we were set - the goals of the operation were achieved. A new order has been created - we haven't had a period of such calm in the last decade."
AP contributed to this report
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