Police have 90 warnings of terror attacks to avenge Gaza shelling
IDF chief expresses sorrow for civilian casualties; Hamas vows to end truce; IAF strike kills 3 militants.
Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi ordered the police forces to go on a higher state of alert on Sunday. The order was given as officers have 90 warnings of terror attacks vowing to avenge the killing of seven Palestinian civilians on a Gaza Strip beach on Friday, as well as the killing of Popular Resistance Committees leader Jamal Abu Samhadana on Thursday.
Police will beef up security from the seam line to entrances to cities, as well as in city centers. Police will also reinforce troops in cities and crowded areas.
Seven Palestinians were killed when an errant Israel Defense Forces artillery shell apparently slammed into a beach in the northern Gaza Strip on Friday. Some 40 others were wounded.
A woman and two young children, aged six months and 18 months, as well as a young teenager were among the dead, medical officials said. All of the dead were believed to be related. The IDF apologized for the incident, saying it "regretted the strike on innocents."
IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz expressed regret Saturday evening for the shelling, but clarified that the army was not taking responsibility for the incident, as the investigation has not yet been completed.
Halutz noted that following the incident, the IDF stopped shelling the Strip, but he stressed that the shelling had been in response to Qassam rockets launched at Israel.
"The IDF will continue to chase the Qassam-launching cells and rocket manufacturers. We will make efforts not to harm innocent bystanders. We fired artillery shells and will do so again, under very limited circumstances," Halutz said.
In Beit Lahia, thousands of Palestinians gathered on Saturday afternoon to attend the funeral procession of the seven people killed.
Chanting "revenge, revenge" and "destroy Israel, destroy America," the mourners made their way through the town's narrow streets to the families' homes, where weeping women tried to touch the bodies of the dead.
In the wake of the shelling, the military wing of the ruling Palestinian Hamas party said that it would renew suicide bombings in Israel, ending the truce that the group declared last year.
"The Israeli massacres represent a direct opening battle and that means the earthquake in the Zionist towns will start again and the aggressors will have no choice but to prepare their coffins or their luggage," Hamas militants declared in a leaflet. "The resistance groups... will choose the proper place and time for the tough, strong and unique response."
The group claimed Saturday morning it had fired at least 15 Qassam rockets at Israel overnight Friday and Saturday morning, for first time in 16 months. Five Qassams launches were detected overnight, although no landing sites were identified and no damage was reported.
IDF sources said most of the rockets appeared to have landed inside the Gaza Strip. In the Jabalya refugee camp, five Palestinians were injured on Saturday when a Qassam meant for Israel landed in the camp instead.
"This is only the start and rocket firings will continue," an Iz al-Din al-Qassam spokesman said Saturday morning.
"Next time, the rockets will be longer in range and they will hit places deeper inside the Zionist entity. The attacks come in response to the Zionist crimes and the killings of civilians in Gaza," he said.
Seven additional rockets were fired at Israel on Saturday morning, Israel Radio reported. At least two struck open fields in the western Negev, causing no damage or casualties.
Halutz ordered an end to the shelling of northern Gaza - aimed at deterring militants from firing Qassam rockets - until the completion of the investigation into the civilian deaths. The military also offered the Palestinians assistance in the wake of the strike, saying that the wounded could be evacuated to Israeli hospitals.
A nine-year-old boy seriously wounded in the shelling was transferred to Israel for treatment Saturday morning.
Major General Yoav Galant, head of the IDF Southern Command, said Friday evening that the army is looking into the circumstances of the explosion. In addition to the more likely scenario that a shell strayed from its path, the army was also exploring whether the explosion might have been caused by a "work accident."
"It is not our intention to harm innocent civilians. We are investigating the incident in order to try to clarify what happened here," Galant said, adding that the IDF is aware of areas in which civilians are present, and that military gunners are ordered to prevent firing on these areas.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz was to receive the results of the investigation Saturday evening, Israel Radio said.
IAF strike kills three militantsEarlier Friday, an Israel Air Force strike killed three Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) militants in Beit Hanun, in the Gaza Strip, just minutes after they fired a Qassam rocket into Israel.
IDF sources said that at approximately 3 P.M., the militants fired a rocket that landed in an open field near the southern town of Sderot. One of the militants, who was standing outside the car, was killed by an IAF missile soon after the rocket launch. The other two men attempted to drive away, but were killed by another missile that hit their moving car.
Security forces had been placed on alert Friday following Palestinian threats to avenge Thursday's IAF strike that killed Popular Resistance Committees leader Jamal Abu Samhadana, Israel Radio reported.
Abu Samhadana, who also headed the Hamas government's Interior Ministry security force in the Gaza Strip, was killed in an air strike on a Palestinian militants' training camp in Gaza. Abu Samhadana was a key player in rocket attacks on Israel and a suspect in the fatal 2003 bombing of a U.S. convoy in the Gaza Strip.
More than ten thousands mourners attended Abu Samhadana's funeral in Rafah on Friday afternoon. Among the crowd were senior Hamas officials, including spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, Interior Minister Saed Siam and other parliament members. During the funeral, a 19-year-old was lightly injured by ceremonial gunfire.
At least three other PRC operatives were also killed in the attack. Hospital officials said 10 more were wounded. A PRC spokesman said the group would avenge Abu Samhadana's death. "The Zionists and Israelis have opened the gates of hell by assassinating Abu Samhadana," said PRC spokesman Abu Abir. "The Zionist entity and Zionist settlements near Gaza will not feel security and safety any more. Our rockets will rain into the Zionist entity and our heroes will blow themselves up among their dirty bodies."
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said all the Palestinian organizations have the right to respond to Israeli aggression and that all means were acceptable in harming Israel, Israel Radio reported. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the air strike was an Israeli crime that damages the chances of peace, the radio said.
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