A Grad rocket fired from the Gaza Strip fell in Ashkelon Sunday, a day after a barrage of about 50 mortar shells were fired into the Western Negev from the Hamas-controlled territory.
The Grad was fired early in the evening, exploding in an open area in the city's southern industrial zone. It caused no bodily injuries, although several people suffered from shock.
"I only hope Hamas has the smarts not to escalate the situation after Operation Cast Lead [the IDF's operation in Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009]," said Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin, "and that this is a one-time occurrence. From what Prime Minister [Benajamin] Netanyahu promised a few months ago, the state will not permit Ashkelon to be fired at. After it is determined finally that a rocket was fired at the city, a harsh response needs to come. The other side needs to understand that there is a price for every shooting [incident] in Ashkelon, which contains the country's largest energy center."
Earlier in the day, a mortar shell was fired toward Kibbutz Nahal Oz on the Gaza border, falling in open territory and causing no injuries. Yesterday morning, a guided missile, apparently a Russian Kornet model, was also fired at an Israeli tank conducting routine operations along Gaza border.
The tank involved was outfitted with the new Windbreaker protection system, which detected the missile and determined that it would not pose a threat to the tank. The system, therefore, did not activate a missile to intercept the incoming projectile, but it did identify the location where the incoming missile was launched.
Within a few seconds, IDF tanks in the sector fired at the position and hit two members of the band that had fired at the tank.
At the same time, over wide areas of the border fence with Gaza, IDF forces operated from within Israel and from the other side of the border fence in a band of about 300 meters of Gaza territory into which the Israeli army does not allow entry by Palestinian civilians.
The IDF Southern Command said yesterday that for the time being, its forces are not on heightened alert, the assumption being that Hamas is not interested in escalating the situation at this time.
A senior officer said over the weekend that the effects of Cast Lead may be diminishing and the Palestinians in Gaza may be testing the limits of Israel's response.
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