Four Qassam Rockets Fired at Israel; Sderot House Hit

5 militants killed, 23 hurt in IAF strikes on Hamas posts in Gaza; strikes part of effort to curb Qassam fire.

Five Qassam rockets were fired at Israel by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Saturday.

In a barrage of four rockets fired at Israel on Saturday evening, two Qassams hit Sderot, one of them destroying a house, and three rockets landed south of Ashkelon. There were no casualties reported.

Israeli aircraft fired missiles at Hamas security posts in northern and southern Gaza Strip late Saturday, Palestinian security officials said.

An Israel Defense Forces spokesperson confirmed a strike on a Hamas post in the northern town of Jebaliya, but had no immediate word on the strike reported near the southern town of Rafah.

No casualties were reported in either attack.

The Israel Air Force launched four missile strikes on Hamas targets a few minutes apart Saturday morning, killing at least five Hamas militants and wounding at least 23, doctors and security officials reported. The strikes were part of an ongoing effort to curb Qassam rocket fire on Israel from the Gaza Strip.

The first strike hit a Hamas installation in Gaza City's Zeitoun neighborhood, and another airstrike hit a Hamas training camp on the outskirts of Shati refugee camp.

Minutes later, a third strike hit a Hamas installation in the southern town of Rafah, security officials said. The officials didn't know of any casualties.

A fourth strike targeted a Hamas training base near the southern town of Khan Yunis.

Earlier Saturday, the IAF fired missiles at five targets throughout the Gaza Strip causing damage and wounding at least three Palestinians.

Helicopter gunships fired missiles at several Hamas facilities, including a wood shop and a guardhouse outside the home of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Haniyeh was not hurt in the attack.

According to the Israel Defense Forces spokesman, the targets of these strikes were three structures used by Hamas in Gaza City, a Hamas military post in Gaza City, and a structure used by Hamas in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip.

Palestinian sources reported at least three people had been wounded in the attacks, including an 11-year-old boy.

On Friday night, at least two Hamas militants were killed in an IAF strike on a car in Gaza City, shortly after a Qassam rocket fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip lightly wounded three Sderot residents when it hit their home.

The IDF confirmed Friday's strike, saying it had targeted Hamas militants who were on their way to fire Qassam rockets at Israel.

According to the IDF, the missile strike was followed by a secondary blast, which is evidence of explosives in the car.

In the Qassam strike on Sderot, 10 people were treated for shock, and the four-story apartment building suffered serious damage. The wounded individuals were sitting inside their home when the rocket hit the yard.

The three injured and four of those in shock were taken to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon for treatment.

Another Qassam hit a factory in Sderot later Friday, causing damage to property but no casualties.

Hamas claimed responsibility for both attacks. A total of six rockets were fired at Israel on Friday.

Earlier Friday, the IAF struck a Hamas position south of Gaza City, residents said.

Two missiles hit the position used by Hamas gunmen, a short time after the site was struck by a salvo of four missiles.

Hospital officials said four civilians were wounded in the secondary attack, including a reporter working for a pro-Hamas radio station. The hospital officials said none of the injuries were particularly serious.

An IDF spokesman confirmed the air strike.

The attack followed a series of seven overnight air strikes which rocked the Gaza Strip early on Friday, targeting several Hamas and Islamic Jihad positions.

Earlier, IDF troops at the Hawarra checkpoint near Nablus in the West Bank also arrested a Palestinian who was carrying three pipe bombs in his bag.

It was the ninth incident of its kind this year.

Palestinian militants continued firing Qassam rockets on southern Israel on Friday, despite the Israeli military operation meant to curtail the rocket fire.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad took responsibility Friday for firing four Qassam rockets at the Negev in the morning, causing no injuries. Some 11 rockets struck the area Thursday.

During the operation on Thursday, the IAF struck close to the northern Gaza home of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, Palestinian security officials said.

One Palestinian was killed by IDF tank fire in northern Gaza on Thursday, and Palestinian sources said a second was killed by fire from the Israel Navy. They identified the latter victim as a 28-year-old fisherman, Said al-Attar. The IDF confirmed that naval ships had opened fire on an abandoned fishing boat that had moved beyond the permitted sailing zone, and said it was investigating the incident.

In addition, Amal Daoud, 40, died in an Israeli hospital Thursday of wounds incurred from IDF gunfire last week.

Ten Palestinians were wounded in the air strikes, Israel Radio quoted Palestinian sources as saying. Palestinian medics said the casualties included a child and a Palestinian police officer.

The site near Haniyeh's home that was struck in the IAF raid was a tin shack where Haniyeh's guards sleep, the Palestinian security officials said, adding that it was vacant and that no one was hurt. The Israel Defense Forces said it hit a building used by Hamas in the Shati refugee camp, and that the proximity to Haniyeh's house was incidental.

Haniyeh, wearing an exercise suit and sneakers, inspected the site, but guards pulled him away because IAF planes were still in the air.

A short time earlier, the IAF hit four Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in the southern Gaza Strip, as part of continuing moves to halt the Qassam rocket fire that has plagued southern Israel for more than a week.

The air force struck a car carrying members of a rocket-launching crew in Gaza City on Thursday. It also bombed two positions held by members of Hamas' Executive Force, in Gaza City and Dir al-Balah, and the offices of three money changers in Gaza City. The IDF said that the latter were used to transfer money to Hamas from Iran. Several Palestinians were wounded in these attacks. The targets also included an Islamic Jihad weapons production facility, Israel Radio reported.

Hamas remained defiant, however, vowing on Thursday night to continue the Qassam strikes that the military operation is meant to curtail.

"Rockets will be fired as long as the Zionist aggression against our people continues," said Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri. His comment came after Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas described such attacks as "pointless and needless."

At sundown Thursday, Gaza militants fired two mortar shells at the Erez crossing, a main transit point for people between Israel and Gaza. There was considerable damage to two of the processing lanes, but no one was hurt, the IDF said. Israel closed the crossing in the wake of the attack.

Also Thursday, the IDF and the Shin Bet security service arrested 33 members of Hamas' political wing, including one cabinet minister, in the West Bank. The arrest raid was part of a broad Israeli offensive against Hamas in response to the rocket barrages on southern Israel. On Saturday, another Hamas minister was arrested.

Sderot emergency status extendedThe Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee agreed Thursday to extend the special emergency situation declared in the Sderot area for an additional 10 days.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz declared the emergency situation in Sderot and other nearby communities on Sunday, in the wake of the ongoing Qassam fire. In addition, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced that Gaza-area communities would receive frontline status.

The committee refused Thursday, however, to approve the government's request that the emergency situation be extended for an unlimited amount of time. The panel said another extension would be granted only if the government reported on the measures taken to protect the residents of Sderot and the surrounding communities.