Two Israelis were killed Monday evening as Gaza militants pelted southern Israel with rockets and mortar shells, as Israel concluded its third day of aerial assaults on the Gaza Strip.
One Israel Defense Forces soldier was killed in a mortar strike in a western Negev base, and another was seriously wounded. Four others were lightly hurt in the attack.
The other fatality occurred when a woman got out of her vehicle when she heard the early warning siren in the city of Ashdod, and sought shelter in a bus stop on the side of the road. She sustained critical shrapnel wounds, and later died. Another passerby who also ducked into the bus stop for shelter suffered serious injuries in the attack.
Three people were lightly hurt in Ashdod, which is situated some 35 kilometers from the Gaza border.
Hamas missiles first hit near Ashdod on Sunday. Monday's attack marked the first time the city suffered casualties from missiles, as Israel concluded a third day of aerial assaults on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.
Simultaneously, in what appeared to be a timed maneuver, a barrage of mortar shells was fired at the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional council in the western Negev.
Shortly after the attacks, three rockets struck Yavneh, the furthest north any rocket has even been fired from the Gaza Strip. No one was hurt in the attack.
Three rockets also hit the city of Ofakim, and one person was seriously hurt in the attack.
The combined rocket-mortar shell attack came hours after 27-year-old Israeli construction worker Hani al Mahdi, from the Bedouin village of Aroer, was killed in a rocket attack in Ashkelon.
Fourteen people were wounded in the attack on Ashkelon, as the rocket exploded near a construction site in the coastal town.
Most of the victims were construction workers from the Galilee village of Manda and the Bedouin town of Rahat. Five were considered in serious condition, four sustained moderate wounds, and five suffered light injuries.
Curious onlookers gathered at the scene despite the Home Front Command's directive to avoid loitering in groups outdoors.
At least 60 rockets have been fired into Israel since Monday morning. Several of the rockets hit Ashkelon, while others struck Sderot and other rocket weary communities in the western Negev. One home in Sderot sustained a direct hit. Channel 2 reported that the residents of the home have been treated for shock.
"I'm standing next to the body," Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin told Israel Radio by telephone on Monday. "To my great regret, we have a fatality. He was killed."
Sirens wailed intermittently on Monday morning in Ashkelon as television crews captured footage of panicked residents seeking cover from the incoming projectiles.
On Sunday, Gaza-based Palestinians launched a barrage of at least 40 rockets at the western Negev on Sunday, as the Israel Air Force continued to bomb targets in the Strip.
Two Katyusha rockets, with a diameter of 122 mm, exploded near Ashdod on Sunday. More than 30 kilometers from Gaza, this was the deepest into Israel a Palestinian rocket has yet to strike.
The Katyushas, which are the most improved versions of the Palestinian rockets, have a range of up to 40 kilometers. The particular rockets that struck on Sunday traveled 37 and 35 kilometers.
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