A house damaged by a Grad rocket in Netivot
A house damaged by a Grad rocket in Netivot, Sept. 9, 2012. Photo by Eliyahu Hershkovitz
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Eliyahu Hershkovitz
An Iron Dome battery that used to be stationed near the southern Israeli town of Netivot - 'The Iron Dome needs to come back here,' says Netivot's mayor. Photo by Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Two homes were severely damaged by a Grad rocket in Netivot, in southern Israel, near the border with the Gaza Strip. An additional rocket was fired at Be'er Sheva, and fell in an open area. No casualties or damage was reported.

Mayors of Be'er Sheva, Ashdod and Omer decided to cancel school on Sunday, despite Home Front Command's recommendation that the public continue with its daily routine.

A Netivot resident told Haaretz “We heard a whistle and a loud explosion. We went outside and saw that the house across from us was destroyed. Suddenly there was a commotion – fortunately as far as we know right now no one was hurt.”

Another resident said “I was in bed, we heard the sirens, and we ran to the shelter. Suddenly we heard the explison, and all of the houses woke up – the children were scared.”

Netivot’s Mayor, Yechiel Zohar arrived at the scene of explosion. “The home here is completely destroyed,” said Zohar. “There was an Iron Dome system here, but it’s currently not here. The defense establishment needs to rethink its deployment of the systems – unfortunately this is not the first time a house in Netivot has suffered a direct hit,” continued Zohar.

“Fortunately there were no casualties or injures, but it’s still luck – it could have hit a house with a whole family inside. This needs to end. The Iron Dome needs to come back here – over the last few weeks they’ve been shooting at us nonstop,” said Zohar.

Last Wednesday, an Israeli airstrike killed three Palestinians and left one severely wounded. The four militants were reportedly engaged in firing a rocket into Israel at the time, according to reports in the Palestinian press.

These Palestinian sources reported that the four were east of the al-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza Strip at the time. At this time it isn't clear what organization the four were affiliated with.

In addition, last Thursday morning IDF forces killed three Gaza militants caught placing an explosive device on the border fence in the northern Gaza Strip. The three are affiliated with a Jihadist group that operates independently in the Strip against the Hamas.

Israel and Gaza's ruling Hamas have had a tenuous, unwritten truce since a three-week war more than three years ago. Despite that, militants, some from Hamas and others from splinter groups - continue to fire rockets at southern Israel, triggering Israeli airstrikes.

Last week, sources in Gaza reported that Hamas arrested 20 people on suspicion of affiliation with armed Salafist groups operating in Gaza and trying to fire rockets into Israel. Hamas has been confronting these radical groups over rocket fire, as it tries to maintain calm in the Strip and ensure its continued rule.

These groups, some of whom are comprised of former Hamas operatives, continue their efforts to launch missiles into Israel, while Hamas and the Isamic Jihad try to maintain calm. 

Hamas did not repond to the killing of the six militants. Saturday night's rocket attack was apparently committed by militants identified with one of the radical "global jihad" groups.