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Qassam rocket (archives) Photo: Reuters
Qassam rocket (archives) Photo: Reuters
 
Air strike in Gaza (archives) Photo: Reuters
Air strike in Gaza (archives) Photo: Reuters
 
 

2 rockets hit western Negev; IDF strikes in Gaza

One Qassam lands in kibbutz in Sdot Negev Regional Council, another hits an open area in Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council. No injuries reported, but environmental damage caused. In response, Air Force jets attack weapons smuggling tunnels on Philadelphi route

Shmulik Hadad
Latest Update: 02.16.09, 15:39 / Israel News

While the talks for truce between Israel and Hamas and for release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit go on in Cairo, western Negev communities continue to be hit by rockets: Two Qassams were fired at the western Negev on Monday morning. One landed in a kibbutz in the Sdot Negev Regional Council, and the other hit an open area in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council.

 

There were no reports of injuries, but environmental damage was caused. The kibbutz residents woke up to the sounds of the Color Red rocket alert system and to a loud explosion.

 

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In response to the rockets, the Israel Air Force attacked a weapons smuggling tunnel on the Philadelphi route in the southern Gaza Strip in the early afternoon hours. Two additional tunnels were attacked several hours later. 

 

The Israel Defense Forces has struck several tunnels along the route in the past few days.

 

IDF officials estimate that Hamas is resuming its activity at the tunnels in order to replenish the organization's weapons cache.

 

The secretary of the kibbutz hit by the rocket told Ynet: "This morning a rocket exploded inside the kibbutz, not far from the houses. The rocket landed in a cactus garden and caused light damage. It's a miracle there were no injuries."

 

He added that "since the fighting ended rockets continue to explode in our area, so we are not relying on the promised lull."

 

Police sappers have been alerted repeatedly to rocket landing sites in the past few weeks. According to the sappers, the Qassam that exploded in the kibbutz was a 90-millimeter rocket, and is believed to have been fired by Hamas men.

 

The rockets were launched as some of the children were making their way to school, and council officials said this was no coincidence. In several other incidents in the past few days, Palestinian gunmen fired rockets shortly before the schools and kindergartens opened.

 

Rocket routine

On Sunday evening, a rocket was fired at the Sdot Negev area. The Color Red alert system was activated at around 11:05 pm in some of the Gaza vicinity communities, and residents reported hearing a loud explosion. The security forces searched the area overnight in a bid to locate the rocket.

 

On Saturday evening, the Home Front Command appointed a committee to investigate an apparent malfunction in the rocket alert system in the Hevel Yavne Regional Council, after a Grad rocket exploded near a town in the area.

 

The Grad rocket reportedly struck the area of a town in Hevel Yavne around 8 pm Friday, and its remains were discovered and dismantled in an agricultural field by police sappers on Saturday morning. It constitutes the farthest-reaching rocket fired at Israel since the end of the Israel Defense Forces offensive in Gaza.

 

IDF officials estimated that despite the damage caused to Hamas' rocket alignment during Operation Cast Lead, the organization still has hundreds of rockets, including long-ranged ones. The group's gunmen fire only a small number of rockets each time for fear of a new Israeli operation.

 

Hanan Greenberg contributed to this report

 

First Published: 02.16.09, 07:24

 

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