Yad mordechai, burning car, rocket attack - Eliyahu Hershkovitz - August 24 2011
The burnt remains of a car hit by a rocket on Yad Mordechai. Photo by Eliyahu Hershkovitz
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A barrage of rockets was fired into Israel yesterday evening, apparently in response to the targeted killing of an Islamic Jihad operative in Rafah earlier in the day. Yet despite the renewed rocket attacks, the Israel Defense Forces said an escalation in the south is unlikely.

Late last night, a rocket was shot down by the Iron Dome system near Be'er Sheva, while another one fell on or near a home on Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, lightly wounding a child.

Seven rockets fired earlier in the evening fell in open areas and caused no injuries or damage.

In a joint Israel Air Force-Shin Bet security service operation, Ismail Al-Asmar, 34, was blown up in his car very early yesterday morning. Two other people with him were lightly wounded.

IDF sources say that Asmar transferred funds to the Popular Resistance Committees activists and the Egyptian terrorists who carried out the terror attack near Eilat last Thursday and who were planning another attack from the Sinai peninsula.

Islamic Jihad fired two mortars into Israel yesterday morning, in an immediate response to the assassination. There were no injuries.

Following the mortars, the Home Front Command instructed residents near the Gaza border to stay close to protected areas and ordered mass events canceled in the south.

In the middle of the afternoon, however, the command decided to reduce the alert level. During a meeting between Home Front Command commander Maj. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg and Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin, it was agreed to allow the four-day Briza Music Festival in the city, scheduled to open last night, to take place.

But as evening approached, the defense establishment got warning that Islamic Jihad was planning rocket launches; the alert level was raised again and yesterday's performances were canceled. A new security assessment will determine the fate of today's scheduled performances.

Other events canceled yesterday included the Jerusalem Festival, scheduled to take place in Netivot; and two soccer games, one between Betar Jerusalem and Hapoel Be'er Sheva, meant to take place in Be'er Sheva, and one between Ashdod F.C. and Ironi Ramat Hasharon, scheduled to take place in Ashdod.

Between 7 and 9 P.M., seven rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel. Five fell in areas belonging to the Eshkol Regional Council, one fell near Ofakim, and the seventh fell south of Ashkelon. The Popular Front claimed responsibility for the Ofakim rocket.

The air force responded by attacking the Islamic Jihad cell that launched the rockets from Gaza City, killing one terrorist and wounding several others.

Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahar, meanwhile, termed the terror attack last Thursday near Eilat "strange," saying Israel had exploited the attack to retaliate in the Gaza Strip.

He noted that no group had taken responsibility for the attack. Israel, however, insists that the Popular Resistance Committees were responsible for it.

Although rocket firings resumed yesterday after two days of relative quiet, the defense establishment believes there will be no major escalation in the coming weeks, as Hamas has a clear interest in maintaining its self-declared cease-fire.

Also yesterday, a woman was wounded when a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip fell into the Egyptian area of Rafah.