Running for cover in Be'er Sheva
People running for cover after a missile alert in Be’er Sheva on March 23, 2011. Photo by AFP
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Two Grad rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip at Be'er Sheva yesterday, and at least 13 mortars were fired on Israeli communities near Gaza in another day of escalation in the south. In Be'er Sheva, one man was slightly injured, four people were treated for shock, and property and infrastructure were damaged.

The first Grad was fired at 5:30 A.M. and landed in a street in a residential neighborhood of Be'er Sheva. Nahum Norber, 57, who was in his third-floor apartment, was hit in the chest by shrapnel and was taken to the hospital. "I heard the siren and I ran to the shelter," Norber said. "Then I ran back to close the windows and all of a sudden I saw a fireball and a piece of shrapnel hit me," he said.

The second Grad fell four hours later in an open area in the city, causing no injuries. Over the past week, 74 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip. Since the beginning of the year, 109 rockets have been fired and 41 civilians have been injured.

The municipalities of Be'er Sheva and Ashdod announced that schools in those cities would not open today because of the security situation.

Sources in the IDF said last night they believed the area would calm down soon because Hamas was trying to rein in Islamic Jihad, which is responsible for most of the launches.

The IDF said it had attacked Grad missile launch points in Gaza, apparently those from which Grads were launched at Be'er Sheva, or previously, at Ashdod. But it did not attack further targets in Gaza, hoping to restore calm after four civilians, members of one family, were killed by IDF mortars launched in response to Palestinian mortar fire from Gaza on Kibbutz Kfar Aza.

Meanwhile, seven mortars fell yesterday morning in the area of the Eshkol Regional Council, and later, another mortar fell in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council. Yesterday evening, five more mortars fell in open areas in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council. No injuries were reported.

Be'er Sheva Mayor Rubik Danilovich said yesterday that he had told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu three weeks ago that "the government has to take action to restore quiet to communities in the south, even at the cost of another operation."

At a meeting of security officials yesterday, it was decided that commanders of police stations in the southern district would deploy additional personnel in their areas as well as civil defense volunteers.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who returned to Israel last night from a trip to the United States and Britain, is expected to meet with IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilnai and other defense and intelligence officials to evaluate the situation.

"We will not stand for strikes on Israeli citizens, either in the south or in Jerusalem," Barak said. Speaking at the site where the Grad missile fell in Be'er Sheva, Knesset opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni (Kadima ) said: "Israel must restore deterrence. Israel is a strong country...and cannot appear as the weaker party." Livni also said that events in the region were spurring extremist organizations to act at this time. "As we have done before to Hamas and extremist groups that do not accept our existence and with whom there is no chance of an agreement, we must act with force," she said.