The Israel Defense Forces said Sunday that there has been a dramatic drop in the ability of Hamas to launch rockets against Israel. Currently, the launches have dropped by 50 percent compared to to the first day of Operation Cast Lead, 17 days ago.

Meanwhile, Palestinian militants have continued their rocket fire on Israel every day since the offensive began.

A Grad rocket fired by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip scored a direct hit on a home in the northern Negev city of Ashkelon on Monday. Earlier Monday, a rocket fired from Gaza exploded in an open field near Kiryat Gat, causing no casualties or damages.

A total of 22 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip struck Israel on Sunday, one of which exploded in an empty school playground in the northern Negev city of Ashdod. There were no casualties in the incident. Gaza militants fired another 21 rockets at Israel on Saturday.

Military Intelligence chief Major General Amos Yadlin told the Cabinet on Sunday that the Islamist organization's ability to fight has been hurt by Cast Lead.

He said Hamas was now suffering from ammunition shortages and has been hard hit by the deaths of senior militants. But despite this, Yadlin said the group is not expected to raise a white flag.

Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin told the Cabinet during its weekly meeting that many Gazans were furious with Hamas for bringing a disaster on Gaza.

On Thursday the UN Security Council voted on a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, but the United States unexpectedly abstained in the vote, saying talks on a truce were still under way through Egyptian mediation.

Both Hamas and Israel have rebuffed the resolution, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that no external body would ever be allowed to determine Israel's right to defend itself against security threats.

The IDF on Sunday began deploying reservist troops to the Gaza Strip, for the first time since Israel began its offensive on the Hamas-ruled coastal territory 16 days ago.

The government announced a week ago Saturday that it had approved call-up of tens of thousands of reservist soldiers. The announcement was made almost simultaneously with the launch of the Gaza ground incursion, aimed at halting rocket fire on Israel's southern communities.

The government ordered the armed forces "to draft the necessary reservists, on a scale of tens of thousands of troops." Nearly 10,000 reservists had already been called up in a previous order by the defense establishment the week before.