Sniper Wounds Soldier Working on Border Fence

An Israel Defense Forces soldier was moderately wounded yesterday morning by a Palestinian sniper near the border of the Gaza Strip. The shooting occurred near Kissufim while the soldier was repairing the border fence that had been damaged by mortar fire.

The soldier, who was wounded in the shoulder, was evacuated to Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva. Shortly thereafter, the combat engineering unit nearby came under fire, an explosive charge went off and the Palestinians fired an antitank rocket and three mortars. No injuries or damage were reported.

The Palestinians also fired five Qassam rockets yesterday afternoon from the southern Gaza Strip. One fell in Moshav Yesha in the Eshskol region, injuring three Thai workers and three Israeli farmers. One Thai worker was moderately injured by shrapnel to the head.

Keren Rahamim, whose father employs the Thais who pick tomatoes, said the workers were on their afternoon break when the Qassam fell a few meters away from the building where they live.

After the attack the Israel Air Force fired at and wounded an armed Palestinian at the scene of the rocket launch while he was attempting to fire another rocket, the IDF said.

The IDF fired again shortly thereafter and hit the five Qassam rocket launchers, the army said.

Two Bedouin farmers were slightly wounded when a rocket landed near them as they were working in a potato field at Moshav Avshalom in the Western Negev. They were treated at the local first-aid station.

A 107-millimeter Katyusha rocket was fired yesterday morning at Israel from the Gaza Strip. The rocket landed in an open area near Nizmit Hill that overlooks the Strip. Sappers said they thought it was the first time a Katyusha of this caliber had been fired here.

But military sources said the terror organizations had already proven they could fire Katyushas, and most of the rockets fired at Ashkelon had a caliber of 120 millimeters, including the rocket that hit the Hutzot Mall in Ashkelon a few weeks ago and wounded dozens of people.

Military sources said the firing of the Katyusha rocket yesterday at Nizmit Hill revealed another weapon in the Gaza Strip's arsenal. "It was produced on an assembly line, carries a standard explosive charge and can be stored for a long period relative to Qassam rockets," a military official said.

Eshkol-region farmers expressed concern that their workers would leave the area, after a rocket attack on Saturday on a poultry coop in Moshav Ami Oz near Moshav Yesha injured two foreign workers. "If the workers leave, agriculture in the area will collapse," said the chairman of the agricultural committee in the Eshkol Regional Council, Mordi Biton. Biton added that Israelis will not come to work in the area because of the security situation.

Meanwhile, in the West Bank, the IDF and the Civil Administration have begun moving some 450 olive trees owned by Palestinians in the area of the village of Na'alin, west of Ramallah.

This is to allow for the security fence to be built along its planned route.

The IDF and the Civil Administration said the trees would be transplanted on the Palestinian side of the fence.