Grad fired from Gaza lands near Ashdod
Escalation in security situation around Strip goes up another notch as rocket falls south of the major southern city of Ashdod for first time since Operation Cast Lead; after midnight, army attacks terror cells, casualties reported; earlier IDF accidentally kills Palestinian civilians, takes out Islamic Jihad rocket-launching cell
Tension in south rise: Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired a Grad rocket towards Ashdod Tuesday night, marking the first time the Israeli city has been targeted since Operation Cast Lead.
The rocket apparently landed in an open area south of Ashdod. There were no reports of injury or damage. Security forces were searching for the rocket's exact landing site.
Early Wednesday, Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack.
Sirens were also heard in Gan Yavne and Kiryat Malachi, with some residents reporting that they heard explosions.
"People here are panicking," Ashdod resident Yair Shalom told Ynet. "I saw my neighbors running downstairs frantically, and people on the street leaving their cars behind and running to secure areas."
Shortly after the Grad attack Palestinians reported that Israeli Navy ships were shelling an open area near Beit Lahiya in north Gaza. Later they reported of an Israeli attack on a terror cell east of Gaza City's Zeitun neighborhood.
The Palestinians reported of casualties at the scene, adding that the Israeli army attacked another terror cells near the Sajaiya neighborhood. Later, sources in Gaza said that one Islamic Jihad member was killed in one of the strikes and three others were wounded. The Islamic Jihad denied that a terrorist was killed, saying he was seriously injured but survived.
Tuesday was one of the more turbulent days Israel has seen since the war against Hamas during the winter of 2008–2009 ended. In response to a mortar attack on the Negev, the IDF shelled a neighborhood in Gaza and accidentally killed a number of civilians, including two youths, aged 11 and 16, and two men, aged 20 and 50.
The army said terrorists were also hit in the attack, and expressed regret over the deaths of civilians. The IDF has launched and investigation into the incident to check why the force's radar malfunctioned and if the commander's decision to open fire was hasty. The army will also examine the decision to launch mortars, which are known to be inaccurate.
'Tension to last for weeks'Palestinian terrorists responded by firing a rocket towards Ashkelon and a mortar at the Ashkelon Beach Regional Council. There were no reports of injury or damage in either attack.
A few hours later the Israeli Air Force launched an attack on an Islamic Jihad terror cell Israel claims was responsible for a recent Grad attack on Beersheba. Four terrorists were killed in the strike. Shortly thereafter Palestinians launched another Qassam rocket, which landed south of Ashkelon. No one was hurt.
IDF officials estimated that the surge of confrontations with terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip will continue over the next few weeks. They noted, however, that Hamas has no interest in significant, long-term escalation of the situation and stressed that the attack on Israel are initiated by other terror groups, such as Islamic Jihad.
The IDF Southern Command instructed Gaza vicinity residents to stay on high alert, fearing that more rockets will be fired towards the region overnight.
Elior Levy contributed to the report
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