Palestinians in northern Gaza fired nine Qassam rockets and a number of mortars toward the western Negev Wednesday morning, just several hours before US President George W. Bush's expected arrival in Israel.
In the initial barrage, three rockets landed around Kibbutz Zikim, while the other two hit outside Sderot. Later another Qassam landed near a kibbutz in the Sha'ar Hanegev regional council, and two mortars landed near the security fence separating Israel from the Strip. No injuries or property damage were reported.
A short while after the rocket attacks, an Israeli missile strike against Qassam rocket launchers in the northern Strip killed at least one Palestinian militant and wounded four others.
Qassam damage to home. Photo courtesy of Tsafrir Abayov
An official from Islamic Jihad said several of its members were hit by an Israeli missile after they fired four makeshift rockets into southern Israel.
An Israeli army spokeswoman confirmed there had been a strike on a group of militants that had launched mortar bombs from the Hamas Islamist-controlled territory towards Israel.
Three more rockets landed in close proximity to Sderot at around 10 am. Residents were able to hear the impact.
In this subsequent attack, one of the rockets hit a Sdeort home and caused damage to the residence. One woman was treated for shock as a result.
The woman, who had stayed home with her two-month-old son, was in the child’s room when the rockets hit.
Her father in law, Shlomo Dahan told Ynet that “the rocket hit the second floor of the house. The mother was just in the baby’s room when the sirens sounded and just managed to get to the safe room. The baby’s room was completely demolished. I hate to think what would happen if she had stayed there.”
The Salah al-Din brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committeess, claimed responsibility for this last barrage of rocket fire.
Security officials estimated that that the Palestinians would continue to fire rockets throughout the day due to Bush's visit.
Beleaguered Sdeort residents wanted to stage a demonstration during President Bush’s Israel visit in order to increase awareness for the incessant barrage of rocket fire that they endure almost daily.
Chairman of the Sdeort Security Committee, Alon Davidi, realized however that staging such a demonstration would not be feasible.
“We realized it was impossible. Like always the government hides our faces and ignores us. Why should we taint President Bush’s visit with trivial matters like rocket fire on Sdeort and Ashkelon? The Prime Minister ignores us every day, why should today be any different?” He said.
On Tuesday Palestinian organizations in Gaza held a number of rallies in protest of Bush's visit, which they said was meant to tighten the economic siege on Gaza.
Also on Tuesday, two 107 mm Katyushas were fired from Lebanon toward the western Galilee community of Shlomi. One rocket landed near a school, while the other landed on a highway leading from Shlomi to Rosh Hanikra. No injuries or damage were reported.
“This is a serious and rare occurrence, but it will not lead us to alter the status quo,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in response to the attack.
Reuters contributed to the report