Kassam hits kibbutz factory in W. Negev

Building damaged, windows broken; none wounded; spokeswoman: Kibbutz homes not fortified.

kassam incredible 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
kassam incredible 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
A Kassam rocket slammed into a kibbutz factory near Gaza on Friday evening. The plant normally operates 24 hours a day, but fortunately it was empty at the time. It was damaged on its southern side, including broken windows and destroyed equipment, but there were no casualties. Shrapnel was scattered throughout the coffee corner, where workers take their breaks during each of the three eight-hour daily shifts. Residents describe the kibbutz as "one of the most threatened communities" in the area, but its homes are not reinforced against rocket and mortar strikes. Alon Shuster, head of the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council, called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to change the policy of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and to "reinforce the homes before a disaster occurs and before the Supreme Court intervenes." Almost exactly 24 hours later, another rocket hit a local kibbutz, which also did not have reinforced houses. No damage or wounded were reported. In an interview with Israel Radio Saturday, Minister-without-Portfolio Ami Ayalon lamented the government's lack of a "clear goal" regarding Gaza-belt communities under threat from Kassams, and said it was vital to protect every person in Sderot and the Gaza periphery against rocket attacks. The minister also called for the entire home front budget to be transferred to the Defense Ministry, because it is the ministry responsible for the home front's protection. "Before the IDF embarks on a major incursion into Gaza, it needs to carefully consider how to operate so that it bolsters Palestinian moderates, including those in the Gaza Strip," Ayalon said. Under no circumstances should Israel talk to Hamas, but it must continue to negotiate with the Palestinians to present a political alternative to the group, Ayalon said. He also called on Barak, his former opponent for the Labor Party chairmanship, to amend the Evacuation-Compensation Law covering Gaza Strip evacuees to apply to West Bank settlers and said Labor must seriously consider its position in the government after the the final Winograd Report is published; he predicted its conclusions would be "very severe." Meanwhile, on the other side of the Gaza security fence, the weekend was also anything but quiet. On Friday, three Palestinian youths were wounded in a shooting incident near the northern border fence. Palestinians blamed IDF troops, but the army said soldiers were not involved. Friday, three people were killed by an unexplained explosion at a funeral in Gaza City. Witnesses said a man carrying explosives in a jacket accidentally detonated them, while Hamas security said a member of the procession threw a pipe bomb. At the Gaza City funeral, hundreds of Fatah supporters marched in a funeral procession of one their members who was killed by an IAF strike. Witnesses said a participant standing on top of a moving car with a loud speaker opened his jacket to show off the explosives and then jumped off the car, triggering the explosion and instantly killing himself and two others. Gunfire and explosions are common at Gaza funerals. Hamas security officials offered a different version of events, saying a funeral-goer threw a pipe bomb from the procession that bounced off a wall and exploded. Fatah officials accused Hamas of throwing a bomb at the procession, saying in a statement posted on the official WAFA news agency Web site it was a "continuation of Hamas crimes since its [June] coup." Hamas security officials denied the allegations. AP contributed to this report.