Rockets Pound Negev; Apartment Building in Ashdod Takes Direct Hit

A barrage of at least 30 Gaza-launched rockets exploded inside Israel yesterday, including a direct hit on an apartment building in Ashdod that lightly wounded two Israelis.

A woman sustained leg injuries when a rocket slammed into her home in Netivot, causing the structure to collapse. A house in Ashkelon also suffered a direct hit, as three rockets smashed into the city in the morning hours.

One of the rockets that hit Ashkelon exploded on a bomb shelter. The rocket bounced off the shelter's reinforced concrete shell and landed about 100 meters away, where it exploded inside the yard of a deserted building.

An additional strike was reported in nearby Kiryat Malakhi, the first such attack on the northern Negev town. The dining hall of a nearby kibbutz also took a hit, after a Grad rocket exploded just outside the building.

On Friday, two salvos of Grad rockets struck Ashkelon, with a home in the southern city sustaining a direct hit. A person in an adjacent house suffered shrapnel wounds. The second salvo included two Grad rockets: One hit an open area, and the other struck a residential area, hitting a vehicle and sparking a fire. Three local residents suffered shock.

The owner of the home that was directly hit, Hagai Ben Avraham, said that he had just emerged from the shower and was preparing to go to synagogue when he heard the early warning siren and headed for the protected room in the house when the Grad hit. "This is obviously a miracle," he said, after the rocket penetrated his shingled roof. "The entire family has called already. Neighbors invited us to spend Shabbat at their house. I'm not worried. It looks like I won't get a chance to pray tonight, but tomorrow I will say a blessing first thing in the morning."

Ben Avraham added that he had just finished renovating his house only three days previously. Immediately after the Grad hit Ben Avraham's house, another rocket slammed into a private car in Ashkelon's center. Like the Subaru that took the hit, several nearby cars were destroyed, but no one was hurt. Three additional rockets hit the Eshkol region, with one rocket exploding in a resident's yard.

Early Friday morning, Gaza militants fired four rockets into Ashkelon. Three of them hit residential areas. One of the rockets scored a direct hit on an apartment building, but the residents' lives were spared as they had spent the night in shelters. In another incident, a woman sustained minor shrapnel wounds and three others suffered shock.

Two other rockets hit the Sdot Hanegev region and two Qassams hit Sderot. No one was hurt, and no damage was reported.

The Israel Air Force fired missiles at Palestinian rocket-launching squads in the Gaza Strip directly after a rocket salvo hit Ashkelon, destroying two rocket launchers.

A barrage of more than 50 rockets struck southern Israel on Thursday, one of which scored a direct hit on an eight-story residential building in Ashdod, nearly 40 kilometers from the Hamas-ruled coastal territory. The strike caused severe damage to the building, but all its residents were evacuated without injury.

Rockets continued exploding over the course of Thursday afternoon in Ashdod, Ashkelon and Be'er Sheva, cities previously considered out of the range of Gaza rockets.