Scene of rocket attack Be'er Sheva - Eli Hershkowitz - Feb. 23, 2011
The scene of the latest Grad rocket attack on Be’er Sheva on Feb. 23, 2011. Photo by Eli Hershkowitz
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A Grad rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck Be'er Sheva last night - the first time since Israel's Gaza offensive just over two years ago. Two Grads struck southern Israel, with one hitting a residential neighborhood in Be'er Sheva, the Negev's largest city.

A number of people were treated for shock and a house was damaged with people inside. Immediately after the strike, Israeli aircraft fired at Islamic Jihad militants near Gaza City; the Israel Defense Forces believes that these men fired the rocket. Two of them may have been killed, sources say.

The IDF believes that Hamas was involved in some way, and this is likely to lead to a harsher response.

Hours earlier, one Palestinian was killed and 10 were wounded during an incursion by Israeli soldiers into the Gaza Strip.

Magen David Adom rescue crews raised their level of alert as the police combed the area to search for the exploded rocket.

After the rocket attack, Be'er Sheva Mayor Rubik Danilovich announced that schools would remain open and operate on a regular schedule today.

"I was outside when I heard the siren," said Shlomo Amar, whose home was struck by the rocket. "That was when I called to my children to head into the bomb-proof room. Then there was a loud boom, and the entire house shook. We didn't even get to the bomb-proof room in time. It was really frightening."

Shoval Cohen, an 11-year-old girl whose family lives next door to Amar, said: "First we heard a noise and thought it was an ambulance siren. My mother went outside to check, and nothing happened. Then my father told us to get into the bomb-proof shelter just to be safe. Suddenly we heard a huge boom, and we all fell as we were climbing the stairs. I was very scared and didn't understand what was happening. The entire house shook."

"There was a siren and then a tremendous boom," said another resident. "We didn't know what to do. We ran outside and noticed that one of the houses in the neighborhood was hit. There was total chaos."

According to a student enrolled at nearby Ben-Gurion University, "We heard a noise that sounded like very strong wind, but then we heard the Color Red warning siren. All the students ran to the staircase, and we heard the explosion. We still don't know where the Grad fell."

Earlier yesterday, one Palestinian was killed and 10 were wounded in fighting between Israeli soldiers, backed up by tanks, and gunmen near the Gaza security fence. According to health officials in Gaza, three of the wounded are children.

During the incident, three mortar rounds were fired at a town in the Eshkol regional council not far from Gaza. No injuries were reported.

The Palestinians were hit by tank fire after they set off an explosive charge near an Israeli bulldozer.

The incident began when IDF paratroopers aided by bulldozers and tanks crossed into Gaza just north of the Karni crossing. The soldiers were ordered to comb the area after the army became suspicious that explosive charges had been planted there.

After the Palestinians activated an explosive device near a bulldozer, they fired mortar rounds at the oncoming Israeli soldiers; some of these rounds landed near a kibbutz next to the border fence.

The commanding officers noticed Palestinians observing the scene from a house on the outskirts of Gaza City's Zeitun neighborhood. The officers then authorized the tank fire at the house, hitting the 11 Palestinians.

Islamic Jihad said yesterday that the dead Palestinian was a member of the organization. Hamas has also claimed responsibility for the incident.

While Hamas has tried to avoid violent clashes with the IDF over the last two years, it has acknowledged actions to thwart Israeli incursions into the Gaza Strip. Hamas has rejected Israeli assertions that the IDF is within its rights to operate beyond the security fence to thwart attempts to harm its soldiers. The two sides have engaged in sporadic fighting over a strip hundreds of meters long on the western side of the border fence.

Palestinian girl dies in explosion

Also yesterday, an explosion rocked a house near the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis, killing an 11-year-old girl and wounding four members of the same family, hospital officials said.

Locals said the explosion was apparently caused by the accidental detonation of a bomb being made or handled by a militant.