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Police officers at landing site
Photo: Amir Cohen
Grad rocket in Ashkelon
Photo: Courtesy of Israel Police
Grad rocket hits Ashkelon
Rocket fired from northern Gaza Strip at southern city; one man suffers from shock, treated by Magen David Adom crews. Another rocket lands near Netiv Haasara hothouses. IDF: We hit launching cell. Palestinians claim army hit family members, not terrorists

Simultaneous to the ceasefire in the north and after a relatively quiet period, in which a small number of Qassam rockets were fired in the past few weeks, the Palestinians resumed the rocket fire Monday morning.

 

The Israel Defense Forces struck and hit the cell which launched the missile toward Ashkelon. Army officials stressed that the attack was not carried out from the air, and that it was a cell of three terrorists operating in the Beit Hanoun area in the northern Gaza Strip.

 

The Palestinians claimed that those hit were civilians, members of one family.

 

Shortly after 8 a.m. a Grad rocket was fired from the northern Strip toward Ashkelon. As a result, one man suffered from shock and was treated by a Magen David Adom crew.

 

It was the third time a rocket hit the heart of Ashkelon, in the city's tourism area. Minutes later, another Grad rocket was fired at Moshav Netiv Haasara.


Lading site (Photo: Amir Cohen)

 

Rami, a café owner, who witnessed the landing, said: "We were sitting at the café, we had just opened, and suddenly heard a very loud blast. Everything here trembled. We quickly ran to see what happened and saw that the rocket landed next to a fence, very close to a tractor which was in the area. Not far from there was also a security guard, who was miraculously not hurt. It was absolutely terrifying."

 

Security forces were dispatched to the landing area and examined the remains of the rocket, estimating that it was a Grad rocket which

was already launched at the area in the past. However, a more accurate finding will be received after a laboratory test conducted by the police.

   

Netiv Haasara's security coordinator, Gill Tasa, said: "Only a few minutes after the beginning of the ceasefire and following a period in which the Palestinians were unable to make headlines, they began firing Qassam rockets. The rocket that landed in Ashkelon is definitely not the last one to fall. After five years it's time that they deal with the Qassams fired at Sderot, the Gaza vicinity communities and Ashkelon. Now, when the ceasefire is going into force, is the time to deal with the Qassam rocket fire again."

 

So far, no Palestinian organization claimed responsibility for firing the rockets.

 

An explosion heard in Ashkelon Sunday night was accidentally thought to be a Qassam rocket, but later turned out to be a stun grenade which was hurled for criminal motives, the IDF reported. A woman was lightly injured in the explosion, and a girl who was nearby suffered from anxiety.

 

Is Gilad Shalit's release close?

 

Three Palestinians were killed after an IDF unmanned aerial vehicle fired a missile at a group of Palestinians near the town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Strip. The missile was apparently fired following the launching of the rocket at Asheklon on Monday.

 

According to the Palestinians, the gunmen who fired the rocker were no longer in the area and those killed by the missile were family members.

 

Monday morning's incidents came while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas planned to arrive in the Strip Monday afternoon in order to discuss with Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and representatives of the Palestinian factions ways to solve the crisis in the Strip, including the kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. 

 

Palestinian sources told Ynet following Abbas' meeting with European Union envoy Javier Solana that there was a good chance for a breakthrough which will lead to Shalit's release, a significant ease in the economic siege on the Palestinian Authority and even a release of prisoners following Shalit's release.

 

The sources said that the release formula has not changed and that Shalit is meant to be transferred to Egypt or to Abbas and in exchange, as a move to build trust, Israel would immediately release a big group of prisoners, including women, minors and prisoners who have been jailed for more than 20 years.

 

The sources added, however, that prisoners "with blood on their hands" were not expected to be included.

 

Abbas, Haniyeh, and the representatives of the factions are expected to discuss the establishment of a unity Palestinian government, after the discussion on this issue were frozen following the deterioration in Lebanon and the dead end which has been reached on the issue of Shalit's release.  

 

PA officials said that the talks would lead to agreeing on a new package, according to which Israel would halt its attack on the Strip, the Palestinian organizations would halt the rocket fire, the talks for Shalit's release would be accelerated, and in return Palestinian prisoners would be released and a Palestinian unity government would be established.

 

In the meantime, Palestinian sources defined the chances for the success of this move as good, but PA officials have said the in light of past experience, this is only cautious optimism.

 

Ali Waked and Hanan Greenberg contributed to the report

 

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