Escalation in south continues: A Qassam rocket fired from north Gaza Thursday morning landed in an open area south of Ashkelon. There were no reports of injury or damage.
Another Qassam launched from the Hamas-ruled territory overnight exploded in an open area in the western Negev region. There were no reports of injury in that attack either.
In response to the incessant rocket and mortar attacks, Israeli aircraft struck Palestinian terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, stoking mounting concerns that a grave new round of hostilities will fill the vacuum left by a negotiations impasse in the Mideast peace effort.
Rocket landing site (Archive photo: Tsafrir Abayov)
Shortly before 11 am a third rocket fired from northern Gaza exploded in an open area within the limits of the Eshkol Regional Council in the Negev. There were no reports of injury or damage. Another Qassam hit the Negev region at around 12:15 pm. The projectile landed in an open area within the limits of the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council and did not cause any injuries.
Following the rocket fire, Palestinian sources said the IDF was bombing targets east of Gaza City. Injuries were reported.
According to the reports, which were denied by the IDF, Israeli tanks opened fire at a factory located east of Gaza City. The spokesman for Gaza's rescue services, Adham Abu Selmiya, said one person was injured in the attack.
Just before 2 pm a fifth rocket was fired from Gaza towards the Eshkol Regional Council in the Negev. No injuries were reported.
Two years of relative calm have frayed in recent weeks with acts of violence against Israelis - including a deadly bombing in Jerusalem on Wednesday - and Israeli reprisals against Gaza terrorists, including a round of shelling that killed four Palestinian civilians.
The violence is the fiercest between the two sides since Israel went to war in Gaza two years ago to try to curb years of frequent rocket attacks on southern Israel. With no sign that Israeli and Palestinian leaders are narrowing the gaps that have deadlocked negotiations, fears are growing that another grave escalation is imminent.
Early Thursday, Israeli aircraft targeted terrorist training sites and tunnels beneath the Gaza-Egypt border used to smuggle weapons and other contraband goods into Gaza.
Later in the day, Palestinian police in Gaza said an Israeli airstrike hit an abandoned rocket launcher.
No injuries were reported in any of the strikes.
Following the escalation in Israel's south, officials in the southern cities of Beersheba and Ashdod decided to keep schools closed Thursday. Tuesday evening, a rocket was fired at Ashdod – Israel's 5th largest city – for the first time since Operation Cast Lead more than two years ago.
While students in the southern town of Ashkelon are supposed to attend classes, the Parents' Committee there urged local residents to keep their children at home for fear of rocket attacks.
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