Grad Rocket Explodes Near Ashdod as Gaza Tensions Spiral

No injuries or damage reported as result of rocket; at least 7 Palestinians, including 4 civilians, were killed during heavy exchanges of fire between IDF and Gaza militant groups.

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A Grad rocket fired from Gaza exploded south of Ashdod on Tuesday after a day of escalation along the border. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

At least seven Palestinians, including four civilians, were killed earlier Tuesday during heavy exchanges of fire between the Israel Defense Forces and Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip, in one of the most serious rounds of fighting near the Strip since the end of Operation Cast Lead in January 2009.

The Qassam rocket that hit Hof Ashkelon on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

At around 4 P.M., four mortars were fired at kibbutzim Alumim and Sa'ad, landing in open areas and causing no injuries. The IDF fired mortars at the launching point, apparently hitting the Palestinians behind the launches but also hitting 12 Palestinian civilians, killing at least four.

Later in the evening, a few more mortars and a Grad rocket were fired at Ashkelon. There were no injuries.

An investigation by the IDF's Gaza Division showed anIDF radar identified that mortars had been launched. Based on the events of the weekend, when Israel was hit by over 50 rockets, it was believed that another barrage was on the way that could hit Israeli homes. The order was given to fire at the source of the Palestinian mortar fire. One of the four mortars the IDF fired at the launch point in an olive grove strayed and hit a house about 80 meters away.

The IDF said in response that it only fires at populated areas to prevent immediate fire at Israeli communities.

At around 8 P.M., the IAF struck a vehicle in the Zeitun neighborhood of Gaza, killing four Islamic Jihad militants who were preparing to fire Grad missiles. The IDF believes this was the same group that fired a Grad missile at Be'er Sheva about a month ago.

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