Terrorists in Gaza continue assault on south as negotiations on a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas continue in Cairo: The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted four rockets fired toward Ashkelon Monday evening, while another rocket struck an empty school in the city. There were no reports of injury. Another school in Ashkelon was hit earlier in the day.
Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin said the rocket penetrated the school's roof and "tore apart an entire classroom. Hundreds of shards of metal were scattered in the school's yard. Had the schools here been open we would have seen disasters."
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Around 10 pm, a few rockets that were fired toward Beersheba exploded in open areas.
In the Eshkol Regional Council, a woman suffered light injuries from a mortar and was evacuated to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.
Earlier, two rockets fired toward Beersheba were intercepted, and a 63-year-old man was lightly injured when shrapnel hit his vehicle in the Bnei Shimon Regional Council. At apporiximately 6:20 pm three rockets exploded in the Eshkol Regional Council. No injuries were reported. Prior to that attack, another rocket hit a chicken coop in a community located in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council. There were no reports of injury.
In the afternoon a 40-year-old man sustained light wounds when he was hit by a car while running for cover in Sderot as the air raid siren sounded in the city. The rocket landed in an open space and did not cause any injuries or damage. Two more rockets hit open spaces in the Bnei Shimon Regional Council and a mortar fell near a community in Eshkol. No injuries were reported.
More than 100 rockets have been fired toward Israel on Monday. The Iron Dome system intercepted 30 of them.
The IDF said more than 1,100 rockets have been launched from Gaza since Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense last week; 640 rockets and mortars landed in Israeli territory, and the Iron Dome system has intercepted 324 rockets. The IDF attacked 1,350 terror targets in Gaza.
Video courtesy of jn1.tv
Sources in Gaza said more than 100 Palestinians, including 24 children and 10 women, have been killed during the operation. They said 850 Palestinians, among them 260 children and 140 women, were injured.
Around 6:40 pm Palestinians reported that two people were killed during an Israeli airstrike in the al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. Shortly before 7 pm sources in Gaza reported that one person was killed in an attack on the Nuseirat refugee camp, also located in the central part of the coastal enclave.
An Israeli strike on a high-rise in downtown Gaza City Monday afternoon left at least one senior Islamic commander dead and a few others injured. It was the second strike in two days on the al- Shorouq building, where a number of local and foreign news organizations have offices.
Palestinian sources said two more people were killed in Nuseirat. An airstrike on Gaza City at around 4 pm killed an Islamic Jihad terrorist.
Classrooom in Ashkelon (Photo: Ido Erez)
Amid reports of an imminent ceasefire, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told volunteers with the Information Ministry, "We are now working in four fronts: The home front, military front, political front and information front. The fact that you are focusing on refuting the industry of lies is very helpful to the State of Israel.
Netanyahu spoke shortly after exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal told reporters in Cairo that a truce was possible but the Islamist group, in charge of the Gaza Strip since 2007, would not accept Israeli demands and wanted Israel to halt its strikes first and lift its blockade of the enclave.
"Whoever started the war must end it," he told a news conference in Cairo, adding that Netanyahu, who faces an election in January, had asked for a truce, an assertion a senior Israeli official denied.
Mashaal said Netanyahu feared the domestic consequences of a "land war" of the kind Israel launched four years ago: "He can do it, but he knows that it will not be a picnic and that it could be his political death and cost him the elections."
For Israel, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon has said that "if there is quiet in the south and no rockets and missiles are fired at Israel's citizens, nor terrorist attacks engineered from the Gaza Strip, we will not attack."
Yaalon also said Israel wanted an end to Gaza terrorist activity in the neighboring Egyptian Sinai peninsula.
Another senior official close to Netanyahu told Reuters on Monday that."Israel is prepared and has taken steps, and is ready for a ground incursion which will deal severely with the Hamas military machine.
"We would prefer to see a diplomatic solution that would guarantee the peace for Israel's population in the south. If that is possible, then a ground operation would no longer be required. If diplomacy fails, we may well have no alternative but to send in ground forces," he added.
Egypt, where newly elected President Mohammed Morsi has his roots in the Muslim Brotherhood seen as mentors to Hamas, is acting as a mediator in the biggest test yet of Cairo's 1979 peace treaty with Israel since the fall of Hosni Mubarak.
"I think we are close, but the nature of this kind of negotiation, (means) it is very difficult to predict," Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil, who visited Gaza on Friday in a show of support for its people, said in an interview in Cairo for the Reuters Middle East Investment Summit.