IAF Strikes Two Bureaux De Change in Gaza City; IDF Soldier Hurt in Gaza

Shops believed to run funds for Hamas; PA: 3 hurt in strike; soldier shot, not yet clear by whom; IDF briefly detains 7 Palestinians in rare arrest raid in S. Gaza.

The Israel Air Force late Wednesday fired missiles on two Hamas-affiliated bureaux de change in Gaza City, cutting off electricity to parts of the town. The strikes were part of an ongoing operation aimed at curbing Qassam rocket strikes on Israel from the Gaza Strip.

The Israel Defense Forces said that the targeted money changers were a conduit for millions of dollars sent from Iran, Syria and Lebanon to arm and train Hamas militants.

Palestinian sources reported three people were wounded in the attack.

A third airstrike in the city shortly after midnight hit a car whose passengers escaped just before the missiles landed. The IDF said it targeted Hamas militants.

Earlier Wednesday evening, an IDF soldier was lightly hurt as gunshots were fired in the northern Gaza Strip.

The gunfire erupted near the ruins the former settlement of Dugit, where IDF troops have been operating for several days.

It is not yet clear whether the soldier was shot by Palestinians or accidentally by a different IDF force operating in the area. The soldier was taken to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon for medical assistance.

Meanwhile, four Qassam rockets slammed into the western Negev Wednesday evening, one hitting a stable in a kibbutz and killing a pregnant horse.

Another rocket landed in an open field in Sderot and two others in open areas near the city. No damage or casualties were reported.

One Qassam rocket landed in Sderot Wednesday morning. At least 13 rockets hit the western Negev over the two-day Shavuot holiday.

Overnight Tuesday, IDF troops launched a rare raid into the southern Gaza Strip, briefly detaining seven Palestinians on the outskirts of the town of Khan Yunis.

The troops did not enter Khan Yunis itself, the army said, and the Palestinians were questioned and then released. Local residents said the troops entered several homes in the area.

The IDF routinely conducts arrest raids in the West Bank, but such operations in the Gaza Strip have been extremely rare since Israel withdrew from the territory in September 2005.

Israel launched more air strikes on suspected Gaza militants early Wednesday that wounded at least seven people, including a pregnant woman and a teenage boy, hospital officials and residents of the northern part of the coastal strip said.

The IDF confirmed an aircraft had fired missiles into a building used to store munitions and that secondary explosions were observed.

Shortly after the first strike, a missile was fired at a Gaza City target also believed to be used by Hamas militants to store weapons, witnesses said.

There were no casualties in the second airstrike, said the witnesses.

An IAF helicopter strafed a rocket launch site in Gaza with machine-gun fire earlier Tuesday evening, wounding three people, Palestinian security officials and hospital staff said. They could not say if they were firing rockets at the time.

The IDF confirmed it fired at areas known to be used for firing rockets, but could not say whether anyone was wounded.

Meanwhile, at least 13 Qassam rockets were fired at Israel the western Negev Tuesday evening.

One rocket hit open areas, causing no damage or injuries. Later Tuesday, two more rockets were fired at the area, one hitting a wheat field, causing a fire, and the second striking in the town of Sderot, causing damage. There were no injuries in any of the attacks.

Later on in the evening, three rockets were fired at Israel, two of which hit open areas in the western Negev, and one of which hit inside Palestinian territory. There were no injuries or damage.

Seven more rockets were fired Tuesday, lightly wounding two people, the IDF said.

Earlier Tuesday, the IAF attacked two Hamas camps in northern Gaza, Palestinian security officials said. Hamas said one of the airstrikes destroyed a building used by its Executive Force.

The IDF confirmed the airstrikes, but gave no details on the target. Israel has carried out extensive bombing raids in Gaza, the source of ongoing Qassam rocket fire, targeting Hamas and other militant groups responsible for the attacks.

Also Tuesday, the IAF hit two targets in central Gaza, an IDF spokesperson said. Palestinian officials said a total of seven people were wounded in the four attacks.

Defense Minster Amir Peretz said Tuesday that Israel is exerting self-restraint over the ongoing Qassam attacks, avoiding the use of ground troops.

Leaders of Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in Gaza already have taken a series of precautions to avoid Israeli attacks, turning off cellphones and staying indoors.

In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri threatened harsh retaliation if the group's leaders were attacked. "Harming ... any of Hamas' leadership will cost the occupation dearly," he said. "This will mean responses." He did not elaborate.

On Monday, a Hamas spokesman had said that if Israel agrees to a temporary cease-fire in the West Bank, the Palestinian unity government will be able to get all the Palestinian factions to heed a general cease-fire, including in the Gaza Strip.

Over the past week, more than 150 rockets have landed around Sderot, a town of 24,000 residents near the Gaza border.

The army said the Tuesday morning strikes targeted a building housing weapon depositories and another that served as a "command center" for the Popular Resistance Committees.

The IAF said the Tuesday morning strikes targeted a building housing weapon depositories and another that served as a "command center" for the Popular Resistance Committees.

Witnesses and a Hamas spokesman said that the strikes destroyed a metal foundry and a wood workshop that Hamas militants had gathered near.

Shirel Friedman, killed in Qassam strike, laid to rest in SderotThe morning air strikes came hours after an Israeli woman was killed in a Qassam attack on the Negev town of Sderot.

Shirel Friedman, 32, was killed when a rocket hit a vehicle near a bakery at a Sderot mall at approximately 8 P.M. She was struck by shrapnel and succumbed to her injuries as she was being rushed to the hospital. She was laid to rest Tuesday noon in Sderot.

"As Sderot buries yet another victim of this Qassam rocket terror, Israel reiterates its determination to bring these attacks to an end, and to restore quiet to Sderot and the western Negev," said Prime Minister's Office spokesman David Baker.

Two other Sderot residents were wounded in the Monday Qassam attacks, one moderately and the other lightly. Both were evacuated to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon.

The attacks led hundreds of youths to demonstrate in the streets of Sderot, burning tires and shouting slogans against Mayor Eli Moyal and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. When rumors spread that the prime minister was making his way to the town, a mob headed for the municipality, throwing stones and destroying flower pots.

Police confiscated crates of tomatoes from the protesters, who planned to throw them at the prime minister and his entourage.

The protesters also shouted slogans in favor of tycoon Arcadi Gaydamak, who volunteered funds to assist and evacuate Sderot residents both during this crisis and last summer.

In view of the situation, Sderot schools were closed again Tuesday. However, the matriculation exam in English was administered Monday, and 85 percent of the pupils scheduled to take the test arrived.

Meanwhile, the IDF has imposed a full closure on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for the duration of the Shavuot holiday, which falls on Tuesday and Wednesday.