IAF strikes Kassam squad in Gaza

Rocket fire on western Negev continues; Barak decides to keep border crossings to Gaza closed.

grad ashkelon 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
grad ashkelon 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Israeli Air Force on Sunday afternoon attacked a squad of Palestinian terrorists who were preparing to fire a Kassam rocket towards Israel from the northern Gaza Strip. The IAF reported a hit, but the Palestinians said there were no casualties. In the wake of the ongoing rocket and mortar shell fire on the western Negev, Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided Saturday night to keep the border crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip closed on Sunday. Palestinians fired three Kassam rockets at the western Negev on Sunday afternoon. No wounded or damage were reported. One rocket landed at the entrance to Sderot, while the other two landed in the Sha'ar Hanegev and Eshkol regions. Since Sunday morning, some eight Kassam rockets and five mortar shells were fired at the western Negev. Over the weekend, some 20 Kassam rockets and mortar shells pounded the region, as Palestinian terror factions in Gaza intensified their attacks on Israel. Palestinian groups said the weekend rocket barrage was in response to violence by settlers against Arabs in Hebron, which broke out Thursday night following the evacuation of the city's disputed Beit Hashalom. Meanwhile, IAF aircraft carried out two air-strikes against Palestinian rocket-launching squads in Gaza on Saturday night. Palestinian sources reported that two terrorists were injured in the second attack, one of them critically. Defense officials said Saturday that despite the escalation in rocket attacks, Barak was not in favor of a large IDF operation in Gaza. In recent weeks, one of Barak's top aides, Amos Gilad, has held a number of high-level talks with the Egyptians about extending the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, which is due to expire on December 19. "Now is not the time for a large-scale operation, although this could change the moment many people are killed in a Kassam attack," one official said Saturday. Palestinians claimed that an IDF tank shell had killed a Popular Resistance Committees operative in central Gaza. The IDF denied the report and said that its tanks did not fire into Gaza on Saturday. AP contributed to this report.