VIDEO - Five Qassam rockets were fired toward the Western Negev city of Sderot early Tuesday. At around 7 a.m. the Red Dawn alert system detected the launching of the rockets from north Gaza toward the city.
About half an hour after the Qassams were launched, the Israel Defense Forces began shelling the areas used by Palestinians to launch rockets toward Israel.
However, the rocket fire continued: At around 9 a.m., a rocket landed on the Gabim Junction near Sderot, while a mortar shell landed near an IDF base in the Kibbutz Nahal Oz area. There were no reports of injuries in both incidents.
Direct hit (Video: Reuters)
One rocket landed near the “Madaim-Hatorani” and “Hashikmim” schools; a woman passing by sustained light injuries from shrapnel, while another woman suffered from anxiety.
Another rocket penetrated a home located on Moshe Sharet Street in the city and landed on the bed of one of the children, who left for school just minutes before the incident occurred; damage was caused to the house and to a number of cars parked nearby.
Room hit by Qassam (Photo: Amir Cohen)
One hour after the fall, the tenants left the house. The neighbors said that several rockets had fallen in the area and that the houses were not fortified. They expressed their anger over the fact that the government was not working to halt the Qassam fire.
Sderot residents told Ynet that the blasts heard throughout the city were especially loud Tuesday.
Peretz prmioses harsh, painful response
Defense Minister Amir Peretz said that Israel would not tolerate the ongoing threat of Qassam rockets on Sderot and its citizens.
"We shall pursue the Qassam launchers and their operators in every corner, and if the fire doesn’t stop Israel's responses and operations will be harsh and painful," Peretz said.
According to the defense minister, dealing with the Qassam launching groups is the defense establishment's top priority and it would do "all that is necessary" to gurantee the safety and wellbeing of the resident of Sderot, the western Negev communities and the Gaza vicinity communities.
Shattered glasses (Photo: Amir Cohen)
“We get the feeling that the Palestinians have increased the Qassams’ range, and they are more accurate,” Sderot resident Rina Mor Yosef said. “Lately the rockets have landed in educational institutions and private homes; we still hope Defense Minister Amir Peretz will wake up and do something."
Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal announced Tuesday morning that schools will be open as usual and matriculation exams will be held as planned.
"Routine is a very important thing following such an incident," Moyal said.
According to Moyal, the promises made by Defense Minister Peretz and other government officials after a Qassam rocket hit a Sderot house last week have not been kept.
"However, I am happy that after four years someone has began internalizing the solution I proposed, and I am referring to Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, who also suggested we reoccupy Gaza and wipe out Beit Hanoun," he said.
Earlier Tuesday, two mortar shells landed near the border fence in north Gaza; no injuries or damage were reported.
On Monday evening, the IDF assassinated two senior members of the Popular Resistance Committees, and the Palestinian response was almost immediate. The rockets were fired from the Jabalya area in the northern Gaza Strip and it is still unclear who was behind the launching.
IDF officials have detected an increase in the firing of Qassams from the Gaza Strip, although the say the change is not significant.
An outstanding characteristic in the past few days is the change in the targeted areas. It now seems that the terror groups have began redirecting their rockets at Sderot and the nearby area instead of at the city of Ashkelon, as the Sderot area is populated and chances of causing casualties and damage are higher.
Last week's "success," when two rockets hit the home of the defense minister's neighbors, only increased the terror cells motivation to direct their rockets at Sderot. In the same barrage, the IDF identified Qassam rockets made by Hamas, which are precise and have not been seen in the area for over a year.
Army officials hinted that rebellious Hamas activists were involved in launching the rockets.
The IDF is continuing its operations against the rocket threat, and the number of terrorists killed since the withdrawal from Gaza has reached 115. In the coming weeks, the army is expected to begin using another system which will enable quick identification of terror cells using radars, the Air Force and improved technologies.
And although the IDF has a contingency plan for a ground operation in the Gaza Strip, it appears that it will not be implemented in the meantime, but operations will be boosted in order to interrupt the Qassam fire.
Hanan Greenberg contributed to the report