December 24, 2008

Security Cabinet Meets on Rocket Rain

by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu and Hana Levi Julian

( The Security Cabinet convened Wednesday to decide Israel's response to a rain of nearly 60 short and medium-range rockets and mortar shells that left a trail of terror from the Gaza Belt to Ashkelon since midnight.

Gaza terrorists battered the western Negev with Kassam and Grad-type Katyusha missiles and mortars, beginning at approximately 2:30 a.m. despite Egyptian efforts to arrange another truce with Israel.

Several mortar shells slammed into a factory in Moshav Nir Oz shortly after 1:00 p.m. No one was injured in the attack. Three mortar shells were fired, also with damaging accuracy, at a factory and a hothouse in the same area at around 12 noon. Miraculously, no one was injured in those attacks either.

A long-range rocket slammed into a house in a moshav near Netivot at around 11:45 a.m. The house was heavily damaged, sending at least two people into traumatic shock.

Less than an hour earlier, two rockets struck the Netivot industrial zone, sending two civilians into traumatic shock and damaging a water pipe burst and several cars. Two medium-range rockets, believed to be a Grad-type Katyusha missiles, scored a direct hit on a home and on a factory in the port city of Ashkelon at about the same time. Two workers in the factory were slightly injured in the attack.

According to the owner of the house, who related her experience of the attack on Voice of Israel government radio, the explosion from the missile's landing in the yard broke the windows in a nearby car, as well as the house, which was heavily damaged. "If someone had been next to the window of the 'security room' the rocket would have hit them directly," she said. Three children were home at the time; a fourth is currently serving in the IDF. "We had a 10-second warning," she added. "That's it."

A wave of four Kassam rockets was also fired 15 minutes later at Sderot, located less than two kilometers (less than a mile) from Gaza. Four civilians were treated for traumatic shock, and a building sustained damage in the attack.

The Magen David Adom (MDA) medical emergency service has raised its alert status to the the highest level possible, putting 120 ambulances on red alert as a result of the attacks.

A short-range Kassam slammed into a roof of a kibbutz home in the pre-dawn hours, causing damage but no injuries, and others exploded in Ashkelon shortly after dawn. The latest attacks began around 2:30 in the morning, with three rockets and nine mortars fired before people began going to work. Three more rockets were fired at the Sderot area around 7:30 a.m. without causing damage. One rocket exploded near Miflasim in an open area shortly before 10:00 a.m. No one was injured and no local damage reported.

Security sources said an army base was also damaged. Four rockets slammed in and around the Negev city of Netivot, burial place of the Sephardic Kabalistic Sage, the Baba Sali. In addition, two rockets exploded next to a factory in Ashkelon.

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas official, said a truce could be renewed "if Israel respects the conditions of a ceasefire." The previous June 19 agreement was broken by Hamas dozens of times in the first five months and then crumbled into pieces in early November after the IDF discovered a Hamas plot to use a tunnel to kidnap IDF soldiers.

Hamas's conditions for a ceasefire, as in the past, are the opening of all Gaza crossings and a halt to all IDF counterterrorist operations.

Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said six months ago that freeing kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit hinged on the June 19 agreement, but Hamas has not referred to the soldier in its latest announcements. Nor has the terrorist group allowed access to the captive soldier by any individual or international organization, including the International Red Cross Association, in direct violation of the Geneva Convention.

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