IAF Bombs Gaza; Qassam Rocket Kills Negev Student

40 Qassams hit Israel; IAF strikes Haniyeh's office; 3 Palestinian children killed in N. Gaza IAF attack.

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Israel Air Force aircraft bombed Gaza Hamas premier Ismail Haniyeh's empty office as well as the nearby premises of his Interior Ministry Wednesday night, hours after Qassam rocket attacks from Gaza killed an Israeli student in the southern border town of Sderot.

Haniyeh and other Hamas leaders have been in hiding, fearing Israeli assassination attempts.

Palestinian health officials said a baby had been killed, and 31 residents of nearby buildings had been hurt in the IAF attack. A few minutes later, Israeli aircraft hit two metal workshops.

Health officials said the 6-month-old baby was hit by shrapnel from the attack. His family lived near the Interior Ministry building in a Gaza residential neighborhood.

The IDF confirmed the IAF strike on government offices in Gaza, and said that the complex was being used by Hamas as headquarters in which Qassam rocket attacks against Israel were planned and carried out.

Earlier Wednesday, three Palestinian children were killed in an IAF strike in the northern Gaza Strip immediately following the deadly Qassam attack. The children were aged 10, 12, and 14.

The IDF said it had targeted a rocket launching squad poised to fire additional Qassam rockets in Beit Hanun.

A military source said it was strange that children would be in the vicinity of rocket launchers, and that it has been proven that terrorist groups often employ children to recover rocket launchers after they are fired.

On Wednesday afternoon, one Israeli was killed, several were wounded and many were treated for shock as at least 40 Qassam rockets slammed into the western Negev town of Sderot and the surrounding communities.

Roni Yechiah, a 47-year-old father of four who was killed in the strike was apparently in a car, parked next to Sapir College on the outskirts of Sderot, which was hit by a Qassam. He suffered lethal shrapnel wounds to the chest.

The rocket barrage occurred hours after an IAF strike killed five Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip who were apparently planning a large scale terrorist attack against Israel after having been trained in Iran. The Shin Bet security service ventured a guess that the severity of the rocket attack against Israel Wednesday afternoon reflected the central role the dead Hamas men had played in the organization.

One of the Qassam rockets Wednesday directly hit a home in Sderot, while another exploded in a factory mess hall shortly after the workers had exited.

Several people suffered shrapnel wounds in the attack, and seven people suffering light injuries and shock were evacuated to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon.

At nightfall Wednesday, four Qassam rockets struck Ashkelon, one of them adjacent to the hospital. One person was lightly hurt and several people suffered shock. A power line was torn in the attack, causing a power outage in the southern part of the town. Ashkelon is 10 kilometers (6 miles) north of Gaza.

Hamas' military wing claimed responsiblity for firing the Qassams.

Israel frequently carries out airstrikes and brief ground incursions in Gaza to halt the rocket attacks, and it appeared likely that the deadly rocket barrage would draw a new Israeli reprisal.

Wednesday morning, at least seven Palestinian militants, most from the extremist Hamas movement, were killed in operations by the IDF in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In southern Gaza, an IAF air strike destroyed a minivan carrying Hamas members, killing five. Hamas said that the dead included a senior engineer involved in the production of the Qassam rockets fired at southern Israel from Gaza on a daily basis, as well the commander of a local rocket-launching squad.

Two other Hamas members were wounded in the airstrike, according to Hamas and Dr. Moaiya Hassanain of the Gaza Health Ministry.

Minutes after the first explosion, an IAF missile struck another car nearby. Witnesses said the militants in the car had abandoned the vehicle for the white minivan shortly before the strike. There were no casualties in the second attack.

The IDF confirmed the strikes, which it said targeted vehicles transporting militants. Israel is targeting Palestinians responsible for the daily Qassam barrages.

Local residents who knew the men said some of them had undergone training in Syria or Iran and returned home after Hamas breached the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt in defiance of an Israeli blockade of the territory of 1.5 million people.

Abu Ubaida, spokesman of Hamas's Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, denied they had traveled outside the Gaza Strip.

Also Wednesday, IDF elite troops operating in the center of the West Bank city of Nablus killed two Palestinians and wounded three others.

The IDF said that the commando patrol spotted a group of five men, one carrying a pistol. The group fled after they were asked to stop by the troops, who then opened fire. Four of the men were wounded, including the man who later died in an Israeli hospital.

In the early hours of Wednesday, a gunman from Islamic Jihad was killed during clashes with IDF troops in central Gaza, the militant organization said. The man's body was taken to hospital in Gaza on Wednesday morning.

The IDF said a militant approached the Gaza-Israel border fence late Tuesday and that soldiers had seen an explosion, likely caused by explosives the militant was carrying.