Woman Killed in Rocket Strike on Negev as Son Watches; Grads Hit Ashkelon

A 70-year-old woman was killed as her son watched when a rocket fired by militants from the Gaza Strip struck a meter from where she was standing yesterday.

The rocket hit a house in Moshav Yesha, 15 kilometers east of Gaza. This rocket struck farther from Gaza than most fired from the Strip. No one else was hurt.

The woman, Shuli Katz, and her son were on their way to visit her sister-in-law on Moshav Yesha.

A neighbor said that Katz's sister-in-law, who is visiting from the United States, was afraid to visit Katz at her home, on Kibbutz Gvaram near Ashkelon, because of the two rockets that struck Ashkelon earlier yesterday.

Instead, she asked Katz to visit her at Moshav Yesha.

At close to 7 P.M., Katz and her son arrived at the home on the moshav where her sister-in-law was staying.

"They drove up to the back entrance with their car. The son got out of the car to make sure they had come to the right house, while his mother stayed near the car.

The rocket alert siren sounded and the mother didn't have time to find shelter. The rocket fell a meter from her," said Haim Yelin, head of the Eshkol Regional Council.

The moshav's security officer Eli Avital, who was among the first to reach the site, said that Katz was already dead when he arrived.

"She was hit by shrapnel. The son was standing under the house in shock, crying. He knew his mother was dead. She didn't have a chance," Avital said.

The paramedics tried to resuscitate Katz, but were forced to pronounce her death.

The attack came as the Egyptian intelligence chief wrapped up talks with Israel over a truce with Hamas that would end rocket attacks and Israeli reprisals.

Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the deadly rocket. Islamic Jihad is responsible for most of the rockets fired by Gaza militant groups at Israeli towns.

Israel has accused Islamic Jihad of receiving its rockets from Iran.

Government spokesman Mark Regev denounced the attack but did not say it would halt the truce talks. "The rocket fire into Israel will end, it will end either because calm will be achieved, or Israel will act to protect its people," he said.

'Terrible bad luck'

The head of the moshav's emergency team, Shosh Moshe, said that Katz had spoken to her sister-in-law that morning.

"Her sister-in-law and the family were afraid to drive to Gvaram because of the rockets that fell this morning in Ashkelon and asked her to come to the moshav in the evening. It's terrible bad luck," she said.

Gvaram secretariat chairman, Shauli Rabid, said Katz was born and raised on the kibbutz and had four children, including two daughters who are married and living in England.

Her two sons are in Israel. Ravid said that Katz's husband died of cancer in December 2003.

"She worked as a nurse in the kibbutz until she retired. She was well known and loved because of her long public service. She and her husband grew a lovely garden around her house, she loved flowers and art," Ravid said.

Katz was the first person to be killed in Moshav Yesha. Over the past seven years, seven rockets landed in the moshav.

"I'm leaving today," said Zehava Atias, who moved to Yesha seven years ago. "I have an 18-year-old son. We are not protected here and have nowhere to hide. Nobody has a safe room and I don't know what I'd do if anything happened to my boy."

Earlier yesterday, two Grad rockets hit Ashkelon.

One of the rockets struck an area crowded with many schools and kindergartens at 7 A.M., only minutes before children normally flood the area. The second rocket struck the Ashkelon National Park.

One woman was treated for shock and some homes sustained damage