Israeli Wounded as Gaza Militants Launch Mortar Shells Into Negev

4-mortar-shell volley comes less than a week after IDF soldiers killed two armed Palestinian militants trying to infiltrate into Israel through the Gaza Strip border.

A man was moderately injured after a mortar shell fired by Gaza militants exploded in the Western Negev on Wednesday.

Landing site of mortar shell in Sha'ar Hanegev Ilan Assayag Sept. 8, 2010
Ilan Assayag

The man, the head of security in one of the kibbutzim in the Eshkol regional council surrounding Israel's border with the coastal enclave, was reportedly hit in the neck by a piece of shrapnel outside his home. He was airlifted to Soroka hospital in Be'er Sheva.

Residents of surrounding towns were ordered by the Israel Defense Forces to stay in their shelters until further notice.

The attack, which included a total of four mortar shells, came after earlier this month Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed two armed Palestinian militants suspected to trying to infiltrate through the Gaza Strip border.

The troops opened fire on the two militants as they were in the midst of laying explosives at the fence near Kibbutz Kfar Aza. None of the soldiers was wounded.

That incident came after IDF forces and Gaza militants exchanged fire on multiple occasions last month.

Last month, Israel Air Force planes attacked three targets in the Gaza Strip, following a barrage of mortar bombs and rockets fired at the western Negev.

Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired a long-range Grad rocket and seven mortar shells at western Negev, following a night-long barrage of Qassam rockets fired from the coastal enclave.

Police investigation showed that one of the mortar bombs fired at Hof Ashkelon council contained phosphorus.

Earlier Wednesday, the security cabinet voted to significantly increase exports of goods from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank and abroad, further easing Israel's blockade of the Hamas-ruled territory.

The purpose of the decision is to try to ease pressure on the population in Gaza, which is being subjected to oppression under the Hamas regime, a statement by the Prime Minister's Office read.

The cabinet announcement also stipulated that alongside Israel's efforts to better the economic situation of the population in Gaza, Israel would demand that the international community continue its boycott of the Hamas regime and continue taking steps to prevent Hamas from attaining missiles.

"Arming Hamas is against international law, harms the interests of the population in Gaza, and it will harm Israel's ability to continue easing and bettering the economic situation in Gaza," the announcement said.

The exports, which will occur through the Kerem Shalom crossing point in southern Gaza, will include three types of goods: furniture, farming products and light industry products.