Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz conceded Tuesday that the army's Operation "Blue Skies" offensive provides only a partial solution to the firing of Qassam rockets on Ashkelon, and fails to provide any solution to the Qassam threat to the hard-hit Negev town of Sderot.
Halutz spoke to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee hours after Palestinians fired 10 Qassam rockets at the Negev early on Tuesday. Two of the rockets were aimed at Ashkelon and the rest at the western Negev.
The Qassam shelling was in apparent retaliation for a Monday night Israel Air Force strike in the northern Gaza Strip, which killed three Islamic Jihad commanders believed to have been involved in Qassam launchings.
There were no injuries or damages reported in the Qassam firings. Some of the rockets appear to have fallen short of their targets, landing within the Strip, others hit open areas of the Negev.
In response to the Qassams, IDF artillery fired at the Gaza Strip in the mid-morning hours Tuesday, Army Radio reported. It said the Qassams were fired far from the 16 square kilometer northern Gaza border area which Israel has declared off limits to Palestinians in an effort to foil Qassam fire.
Sources in the Likud, set to leave the government next week, criticized the government's decision to impose the buffer zone in northern Gaza, and called for an "effective response" to the attacks.
"The Qassam attack proves that talk of a security zone in Gaza was ridiculous. The government is obligated to find an effective response that will free the residents of the communities surrounding Gaza from the non-stop rocket attacks."
The Israeli assassination strike Monday night took place near the "no-go zone."
Two of the men killed in the air strike were identified as senior Jihad militant Sayid Abu-Gadian and his aide, Akram Gadasas. A third Jihad man riding with them in a car at the time of the attack was seriously injured, and later died of his wounds.
Two bystanders were also hurt in the strike, Palestinian security officials said.
In the wake of the targeted killing, an Islamic Jihad member threatened revenge against Israel: "These cowardly acts will not stop our resistance and our holy war."
Two Qassam rockets fired from Gaza, landing site not foundThe Monday assassination strike followed an operation earlier in the day, when IAF fighter jets struck a building used by Palestinian militants near the town of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip.
The building was not occupied at the time, the army said. No injuries were reported on the Palestinian side.
The jets also struck seven roads located mostly in the northern Gaza Strip used by militants to travel to areas where they launch rockets at Israel, the army said. The army has carried out such attacks almost nightly in recent days in an effort to prevent the firing of the homemade Qassam rockets into Israel.
The IDF had on Sunday fired artillery toward areas from which three Qassam rockets were fired toward Israel. No injuries were reported from the rocket attack.
Israel last week declared a 16 square kilometer zone in the northern Gaza Strip off limits to Palestinians in an effort to prevent the launching of rockets from the area. Over the past few days no rockets were launched from this area and it appears that the Palestinians are launching the Qassams south of the buffer zone.
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