After Two-month Hiatus, Gaza Rocket Smashes Into Sderot

A Qassam rocket fired from Gaza exploded outside a home in the Western Negev town of Sderot yesterday, causing extensive damage to the dwelling and lightly injuring an 18-year-old. In addition, two women were treated for shock.

The Qassam fell at 5:30 P.M. between two yards. The teen, who was next door at the time, was taken to the hospital with minor shrapnel injuries.

Israel Air Force warplanes bombed an area near the Egyptian border hours after the attack, Palestinian sources said. There were no immediate reports of casualties from the strike, which appears to have targeted tunnels used for weapons smuggling.

The Qassam was the first to fall in in Sderot in more than two months. It appears to have been fired by one of the smaller Palestinian factions, and not Hamas.

Israeli intelligence sources believe Hamas has been working to restrain rocket attacks and wants to maintain calm.

In response to previous attacks, the Israel Defense Forces has mainly targeted weapons-smuggling tunnels from Egypt in the Rafah area. Israel is also interested in maintaining calm; the Netanyahu government would apparently prefer long-term stability in the Gaza Strip without an agreement with Hamas. The fact that the Qassam strike took place while Netanyahu is in the United States also limits Israeli options.

Nissim Peretz, the owner of the house damaged by the Qassam strike, said: "I was sitting outside with my wife and daughter. All of a sudden we heard [the warning system] 'Color Red.' I called to everybody to run to the security room. A few seconds later we heard a big explosion and we ran to see where the Qassam hit. Our house shook, windows were broken and there was a lot of damage ... We shouldn't have left Gaza until we ended [the rocket fire]. Now we're paying the price for the mistakes the government made because of the elections."

Sderot Mayor David Buskila came to the site of the Qassam strike with Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno, and Noam Shalit, the father of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

"The government of Israel has to maintain its sovereignty. I'm not a security advisor and I don't tell the government how to operate, but all we're asking for is quiet," Buskila said.

"Unfortunately, we went through quite a few incidents like this during the war," Noam Shalit said, referring to the Second Lebanon War. "I don't envy the people of Sderot and I hope they have quiet."

Sderot residents advised Shalit to "yell more" to get his son back.

A bus driver from Sderot, Michael Revivo said: "I had just let kids off at the bus station near where the Qassam fell, and I saw the fear in their eyes. I don't know when it will end. It can catch us any time, any place. We worry when we send our kids to the grocery ... The army should go into Gaza and not come out until they stop firing Qassams."