Qassams Hit Sderot; IAF Fires Missiles at Gaza Workshop

Army razes houses in Khan Yunis following mortar strike on nearby Neveh Dekalim, in which Israeli-American Tiferet Tratner was killed Friday.

Four people suffered from shock when Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired three Qassam rockets at the western Negev town of Sderot on Sunday morning.

One rocket scored a direct hit on a home, the second fell between houses in a residential area and the third rocket landed in an open area.

An Israel Air Force helicopter fired two missiles into a metal workshop in the Gaza Strip refugee camp of Khan Yunis early Sunday, slightly wounding two people, witnesses and medical workers said.

Khan Yunis is located near the Jewish settlement of Neveh Dekalim where an Israeli-American woman was killed in a mortar attack by Hamas militants on Friday.

The army said the workshop was used by Hamas to manufacture mortar shells.

Palestinians fired mortar shells Sunday morning at settlements in Gush Katif despite the ongoing Israel Defense Forces operation in Khan Yunis intended to prevent such attacks, Israel Radio reported.

Mortar shells were also fired at settlements in the northern Gaza Strip.

There were no casualties in either location and no damage was caused.

on Saturday, IDF bulldozers razed a number of houses in Khan Yunis. A United Nations official said 35 homes were destroyed, but an IDF spokesman said troops destroyed no more than 10 abandoned structures used to provide cover for militants firing mortar bombs and makeshift rockets at settlements.

The raid began early Saturday, when dozens of armored vehicles moved from Neveh Dekalim toward Khan Yunis, drawing a crowd of onlookers that included gunmen and civilians, witnesses said.

Residents of the camp emerged from their homes after daybreak to inspect the destruction. Municipal officials said the homes closest to Neveh Dekalim were destroyed.

Local witnesses said some of the houses were inhabited only during daylight hours as residents move to safer accommodation after nightfall.

Witnesses said up to 100 people were left homeless in the raid, which sparked gunbattles between troops and militants.

"We ran away carrying our crying children," said Mazen Qanan, 43. "My oldest son was hit by a bullet in the stomach."

Palestinian Negotiations Minister Saeb Erekat on Friday condemned the demolitions, saying that such a move would lead to more violence.

"We condemn this Israeli escalation," Erekat said. "This military escalation will only... enlarge the cycle of violence and counter-violence."

IDF troops on Saturday evening opened fire on two Palestinians in the southern Gaza town of Rafah, as they made to launch an anti-tank missile toward the direction of the nearby settlement of Morag.

Immediately after the soldiers opened fire, an explosion occurred at the scene of the missile launch, which the IDF believes killed the two.

Two Qassam rockets were fired Saturday evening from Gaza into Israel. One of the rockets hit an military base and the other landed in an open area. Neither missile caused any injuries or damage.

IAF strikes Khan YunisEarlier Saturday, an IAF helicopter fired two missiles in the refugee camp, killing a 55-year-old man and wounding five people, witnesses and medics said.

The IDF said the air strike was aimed at four men about to launch a rocket or rocket-propelled grenade into a settlement, and that at least two of those involved in the launch were hit.

The terrorists were about to launch an attack from the same spot where Hamas operatives fired mortar shells into Neveh Dekalim on Friday, the army said.

"Before they managed to launch that projectile, we identified the terrorist cell from the air and fired at it, scoring a hit on at least two men, although we know there at least four of them," an IDF spokesman said.

Hospital officials said the dead man and the wounded were all civilians.

Friday morning's mortar attack on the Neveh Dekalim settlement, part of the Gush Katif bloc in the southern Strip, killed 24-year-old Tiferet Tratner, who held American citizenship, and left a second woman with light wounds.

One of the shells struck a home in the settlement, seriously wounding Tratner. She was airlifted to Soroka Medical Center, where she died of her wounds. Tratner was laid to rest in Jerusalem on Friday afternoon.

The house hit by the mortar also sustained heavy damage.

Hamas claimed responsibility for the shelling. This is the first time that any of the frequent mortar attacks on Gaza settlements has been fatal.

In response to the mortar fire, IDF tanks opened fire Friday afternoon on Khan Yunis. The army said that it was targeting the source of the mortar fire.

Palestinian witnesses said two Palestinians, a 42-year-old man and a 4-year-old boy, were wounded by the tank fire.

David Baker, an official at the Prime Minister's Office said Friday that Palestinians were doing whatever they could to foil an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

"Israel will do whatever it can to prevent such attacks from recurring," Baker added.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan calls for an Israeli withdrawal from all 21 settlements in Gaza and four in the northern West Bank.

Following the attack, Eran Sternberg, a spokesman for the Gush Katif local council, blamed Sharon's disengagement plan, saying it encouraged Palestinian militants to carry out attacks.

"Sharon continues to incite murder of Gush Katif residents, with a wink to the terrorists: What we can't achieve with advance payments [for settlers who agree to leave], do with mortars," said Sternberg.

The rabbinical committee of the Yesha council of settlements urged the public to pray on Yom Kippur for "the cancellation of the edict to uproot communities in the Land of Israel."

The Yesha Council said the attack proved that the disengagement plan encourages terror, and called on Sharon to hold a personal reckoning on Yom Kippur.

A settler spokesman in Gaza said later on Friday that Tratner had held U.S. citizenship.

IDF razes buildings near site of Morag attackAlso Friday, the IDF demolished Palestinian buildings close to the Morag settlement in the Gaza Strip, Israel Radio reported, a day after three IDF soldiers were killed in an attack on their post near the settlement.

Three Palestinians from Rafah opened fire on the post at around 6 A.M., apparently after infiltrating the area overnight when they were unobserved by the soldiers on lookout.

The IDF said that the demolitions were carried out in order to improve visibility in the area as well as to deprive militants of places to hide, the radio reported.

The attackers had evidently studied the outpost's routine carefully, and waited until 6 A.M. when the company commander led a patrol out of the main gate to ensure that the road was clear before schoolchildren from Morag began traveling along it.

The post was unfenced and surrounded only by a high dirt embankment. The greenhouse area did have a fence although it was not electronic, so no alarm sounded when the gunmen cut through it.

Although the Gaza Division decided recently to erect an electronic fence in this area due to the danger of terrorist infiltrations, work has not yet begun, due to budgetary reasons.

The three slain soldiers were the deputy company commander, Captain Tal Bardugo, 21, of Jerusalem, Staff Sergeant Israel Lutati, 20, of Neveh Dekalim, and Staff Sergeant Nir Sami, 21, of Jerusalem.

Three Palestinian organizations claimed joint responsibility for the attack - the Popular Resistance Committees and the Abu Raish Brigades, both offshoots of Fatah, and Islamic Jihad.

They identified the assailants as Imad Abu Samhadana, 21, Yusuf Omar, 19, and Mohammed Azazi, 22.