Israel weighs response after rocket barrage leaves one dead, several wounded
More than 70 rockets fired from Gaza into Israel; Prime Minister convenes top ministers.
More than 70 rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip since Thursday night, killing one person and injuring at least 18, six seriously. Extensive property damage has been reported. The Home Front Command, together with mayors and council heads in the affected areas, announced the cancelation until further notice of all public events including parties, performances and soccer games.
Last night, the forum of eight senior cabinet ministers convened to discuss the escalation in the south. A senior diplomatic official in Jerusalem said participants discussed the possibility of additional military strikes against terror organizations in the Gaza Strip. The anonymous source also stressed containment efforts. “No one wants an Operation Cast Lead 2,” he said.
Egyptian officials spoke repeatedly throughout the weekend, especially Saturday, with Israeli officials and Hamas leaders in Gaza, in order to prevent continued escalation. An Egyptian diplomat said messages were sent to both Israeli and Hamas figures about the importance of restoring quiet.
Egypt reportedly announced it was recalling its ambassador from Tel Aviv in response to the deaths of at least three Egyptian police officers on Thursday when Israeli soldiers fired across the border into Sinai while trying to apprehend the perpetrators of a coordinated terror attack in which eight Israelis were killed. A number of meetings of senior Israeli officials were held over the weekend in efforts to halt further deterioration in relations with Egypt. (See page A2.)
A joint investigation will be conducted with the Egyptian military to determine the circumstances of the incident.
One person was killed last night when a Grad rocket struck a home in the southern city of Be’er Sheva. A woman was in critical condition and three others was in serious condition from the rocket strike. Dozens more were treated for shock.
Iron Dome downs rocket
Another Grad rocket fired at Be’er Sheva last night was intercepted by the Iron Dome system.
Also last night, three people − a man, a young girl and a female infant − sustained minor injuries after four Grad rockets landed in Ofakim.
Early on Saturday one person received minor injuries as the result of a rocket that landed in an open area near Be’er Sheva. Seven more sought treatment later for shock and minor wounds.
The Popular Resistance Committees and Hamas claimed responsibility for the Be’er Sheva and Ofakim rocket attacks, respectively.
Three people were injured, one seriously and two moderately, when several Grad rockets fired from the Gaza Strip Saturday morning hit the southern city of Ashdod.
On Friday morning two Grad rockets fired in close succession hit Ashdod. One landed in a synagogue, causing damage but no injuries. The second, however, exploded inside a Gur Hasidic yeshiva. One person was seriously injured in the explosion, one sustained moderate injuries and four were treated for mild injuries.
“There were around 180 pupils who were praying shahrit,” said Avraham Mordechai Zand, who was in the yeshiva when the rocket hit, referring to the morning prayer service. “When we heard the first siren we took cover and then we heard an explosion. When we went outside I heard another explosion, and the rocket exploded about five meters from where I was standing. There was white fog, I couldn’t see anything and then two people who were bleeding came in. We started treating them until the rescue services came. The administration told the children to go home, and we asked them to pray gomel,” referring to the blessing recited when one is saved from injury or death.
Nine Palestinians were killed, two of them civilians, in Israel Air Force strikes on the Gaza Strip since Thursday. The nine were militants in Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees, some of them senior officials.