IAF Strikes Jihad Rocket-firing Squad in Gaza, Wounding One

IDF: Militants were on their way to fire rockets; Qassam fired by Jihad hits home in central Sderot.

The Israel Air Force fired on a car carrying an Islamic Jihad rocket-firing squad in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday, moderately wounding one Palestinian, hours after a Qassam rocket struck a house in central Sderot.

According to an army spokesman, the militants were on their way to fire Qassam rockets at the western Negev.

Islamic Jihad, which has carried out numerous rockets attacks against Israel from the northern Gaza Strip, confirmed the militants were en route to a launch site when the car was targeted.

Palestinian sources said the two militants in the car managed to escape, and that the wounded man was a bystander.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday that Israel would "respond severely" to the ongoing rocket fire.

David Baker, an official in the Prime Minister's Office, said: "These are persistent Palestinian attempts to enable rocket attacks against Israeli civilians."

"Israel will continue to take the necessary measures to foil such attacks as we did today," he continued. "Palestinian terrorists will not be able to fire at us at will, and they will see that we will be taking vibrant methods to stop these attacks."

Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the Qassam rocket fire earlier in the day that hit a house in the center of Sderot, narrowly missing a kindergarten.

The rocket attack caused damage to the house, and the resident, 67-year-old Chana Ben-Yaish, was treated for shock, but sustained no physical injuries. The attack occurred before children began to arrive at the pre-school.

After she had been given sedatives, Ben-Yaish demanded that the state safeguard her home. "We are like sitting ducks," she told Haaretz.

Ben-Yaish lives alone and her grandchildren tend to sleep over to keep her company. On Sunday night however, she told her 14-year-old granddaughter not to come.

"I had this gut feeling yesterday, so I didn't let my grandchildren sleep over," she said.

She said she had had trouble sleeping and only drifted off in the early hours, so did not hear the siren that warns Sderot residents of an approaching rocket.

"I woke up from the explosion and found myself surrounded in a cloud of black soot," she said.

Ben-Yaish's home has no protected area. The price of reinforcing every house in Sderot and the Western Negev kibbutzim is estimated at NIS 1 billion and has yet to be approved by the government.

The state has refused to allow Sderot residents to safeguard their own houses, as it violates local building regulations.

"We don't want to leave Sderot. We just want the state to support us," Ben Yaish says.

In Sunday, seven Qassam rockets were fired at the Negev. Two people were wounded, one moderately, when one of the rockets hit a gas station near Sderot. A total of 11 Qassams have struck the area since Friday.

Islamic Jihad also claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks Sunday.

The moderately wounded man, a 24-year-old employee of the gas station, was hit by shrapnel all over his body, and was taken to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon for treatment.

Another man was lightly wounded in the attack, and is suffering slight hearing difficulties. The rocket did not cause any damage to property.

Later Sunday, two more Qassam rockets struck open areas in the western Negev, causing no damage or injuries.

"I was in my office and I heard the red alert, and then an explosion," said Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council Chairman Alon Schuster, whose office is only 150 meters away from where the rocket struck.

The director of the council's psychological services arrived on the scene to help treat those suffering from shock.

In response to the attacks, David Baker, an official in the Prime Minister's Office, said Sunday evening: "The Qassam rocket attacks, as well as the shooting incident in which the Israeli was seriously wounded, are precisely the kind of terror that Israel demands the PA prevent."

"The PA must begin to take the necessary steps against such terror and Israel will be persistent in demanding this," he added.