Two IDF soldiers, 50 Palestinians killed in Gaza Saturday

IAF bombs rocket-filled car; Eran Dan-Gur, Doron Asulin, die in clashes; Palestinians: 16 civilians dead; IDF: Only terrorists targeted.

gaza 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
gaza 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
As IDF troops entered the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday, two soldiers and more than 50 Palestinians were killed, at least half of them gunmen, on the deadliest day in the territory since Hamas seized power there last June. Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired over 50 rocket and mortar attacks on southern Israel, in defiance of the IDF assault. Six Israelis were wounded, all but one of them lightly, in rocket fire that reached as far north as Ashkelon, 17 km. from Gaza. St.-Sgt. Doron Asulin, 20, of Beersheba, and St.- Sgt. Eran Dan-Gur, 20, of Jerusalem, were killed early Saturday as their Givati Brigade units operated against terrorists in Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip. Asulin served in the brigade's anti-tank company and Dan-Gur served in the Shaked Battalion. Seven other soldiers were also wounded during the operations in northern Gaza, and were airlifted for treatment to Beersheba's Soroka Hospital. One soldier remained in moderate condition while the others were listed in good condition. Defense Minister Ehud Barak called an urgent meeting of security chiefs in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening to consider the IDF's response to the escalation of rocket attacks and violence in Gaza, and again warned of a major operation there. Among those attending the meeting were Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen Gabi Ashkenazi and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin. "The operational activity in Gaza is continuing," Barak said at the meeting. "Hamas bears the responsibly and will also bear the cost. We are not happy about harming civilians in Gaza, but the responsibility lies with Hamas and its rocket fire. Our ultimate responsibility is to bring security to the residents of Sderot, Ashkelon and the western Negev and that is what we will do." Palestinian sources said during fighting Saturday, more than 50 Palestinians were killed and at least 40 wounded. According to the sources, at least 16 of those killed were civilians, including a baby reported to have been struck when a Palestinian rocket misfired, as well as two teenagers. Terror organizations said at least 25 gunmen had been killed. Palestinian health officials said about 200 people were wounded, 14 of them critically. The highlight of the IDF's operations against the Hamas terror infrastructure over the weekend came Saturday evening when a precise air strike blew up a truck carrying 160 rockets earmarked for launching at Israeli communities. "Exact intelligence and quick location of the truck brought about a pinpointed strike," said the IDF Spokesman's Office Saturday, shortly after the hit. Throughout the weekend, soldiers from the Givati Brigade and the Armored Corps along with IAF aircraft struck repeatedly against rocket-launching cells and weapons manufacturing sites. Palestinians said that among the dead was Eid al-Ashram, a weapons expert, who was killed by an IAF missile. Meanwhile, despite the intensive IDF ground and aerial operations inside Gaza, Ashkelon remained between the crosshairs over the weekend, with six civilians, including two young children, wounded by shrapnel from Kassam and Grad barrages. One person was moderately wounded and two listed in good condition after a rocket slammed into Ashkelon's marina late in the afternoon. Several others at the scene were treated for shock. All of the wounded were evacuated by rescue teams to the city's Barzilai Hospital. Earlier Saturday, three more people, two of them children, were lightly and moderately wounded when a Grad rocket smashed into the apartment where they were sleeping. The IDF has notified the government that it is ready to launch a major ground offensive as soon as it is ordered to do so, defense officials said. Nothing is expected for the next week or two, in part because the military prefers to wait for clearer weather, they added. Jerusalem Post staff and AP contributed to this report