Be'er Sheva rocket - Eli Hershkovitz - Feb 23, 2011
Security forces gather around the place the Grad rocket fell in Be'er Sheva on February 23, 2011. Photo by Eli Hershkovitz
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The IDF carried out extensive attacks in the Gaza Strip yesterday following the launching of two Grad-type Katyusha rockets at the city of Be'er Sheva on Wednesday. The targets included tunnels used in offensive operations against Israel, weapons dumps and workshops for the making of rockets.

An air attack last night near Rafah targeted Hamas militants who Israeli intelligence says were involved in terrorist operations in Sinai. One Palestinian was killed in the attack.

Two Grad rockets were fired at Be'er Sheva on Wednesday evening. One of the rockets hit a house in a residential neighborhood. There were no injuries. This was the first time since Operation Cast Lead in late 2008 that Be'er Sheva was targeted by militants firing rockets from the Gaza Strip.

The IDF released a statement after the retaliatory air strikes yesterday, saying that it "will not tolerate any attempt to harm Israeli civilians or IDF soldiers, and will continue to respond harshly to terror." The statement reiterated that Israel holds Hamas responsible for any terrorist activity emanating from the strip.

Palestinian sources reported that the air strike in eastern Gaza City wounded three Islamic Jihad militants.

According to an IDF spokesman, the extensive overnight strike was part of the army's aim to "determinately and forcefully defend against those who attempt to harm Israeli citizens."

In recent days there had been an unusual escalation in the Gaza Strip. It began with an explosive device being detonated in the northern Strip and mortars fired at the Sha'ar HaNegev communities. The attack was directed at an IDF patrol that was carrying out a routine search in the area for Palestinian improvised explosive devices.

The IDF retaliated with tank fire toward a group of militants belonging to Islamic Jihad. As a result of the tank fire, one of the militants was killed and a few hours later another died of his injuries. The Grad rockets were fired in retaliation toward Be'er Sheva, the first such attack since the massive IDF offensive in the Gaza Strip in late 2008. The rocket damaged a home and some civilians were treated for shock.

Intelligence sources say that Hamas and Islamic Jihad have hundreds such rockets.

The air attacks initially focused on rocket-launching militants in the Zeitun neighborhood in the northern Gaza Strip, and then the attacks were expanded to include other targets in Gaza.

Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak made it clear yesterday that Israel will continue responding to attacks from the Gaza Strip.

"We will not suffer bombings of our citizens and we will respond accordingly," Netanyahu said at the start of a joint cabinet meeting with the Polish government. "I suggest that our determination should not be tested."

During a visit at the site of the Grad strike Barak said that "we will not allow Be'er Sheva to enter the radius of the Qassam [rockets] and we will make this abundantly clear."