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Two Dozen Weekend Kassams; Four Hurt on Sunday

Shortly before 6:30 AM, as the IDF continued its military offensive in northern Gaza, two Kassam rockets were fired at Sderot, wounding four - one moderately - and partially destroying a house.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 7/9/2006, 10:40 AM / Last Update: 7/9/2006, 12:15 PM

A 43-year-old man suffered moderate wounds from shrapnel from one of the rockets, which fell on Natan Elbaz St. Not far away, Hativat Carmeli St. was cordoned off after a second rocket hit one of the houses. Shlomo Ohayon described what happened:
"I had woken up early for morning prayers, and when I returned after the Kassam I saw that my street was roped off - and I was told that it was my house that was hit. I ran over as fast as I could to see if everyone was OK; it was like an eternity for me. When I saw that my wife and children were standing on their feet, I felt as if I had just received the world."

His family members were evacuated to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, however, to be treated for shock. "One of my sons, who is 18, has a very hard time with the Red Dawn early warning system in general," Shlomo said. "Every time it sounds, he turns white and runs for the sheltered room. The truth is that all of us are scared, but we just keep it hidden inside..." Shlomo's bedroom and attic were destroyed.

The names of the two streets that were hit mark notable events in modern Israeli history. The Carmeli Division was an early IDF division that liberated Acre (Akko) and the Western Galilee, and participated in other important operations in the Galilee during the War of Independence. Natan Elbaz was a soldier who had immigrated to Israel from Morocco without his family; in 1954, with a grenade in hand about to explode, he threw himself upon it instead of allowing it to explode amidst a group of soldiers - thus killing himself, but saving his friends.

No fewer than 21 Kassam rockets were fired on Friday towards Israel. For the first time, a Kassam was fired as far east as Netivot, landing near the gravesite of the Baba Sali. Another rocket landed near Shuva, adjacent to Kfar Maimon, causing a fire in a field. No one was hurt.

It was reported Sunday morning that over 70 armed terrorists had been killed in the ten-day-old IDF offensive thus far. Some 40 of them were killed in the past three days. The objectives are twofold: to stop or halt the Kassam rockets upon Israel, and to bring about the liberation of the abducted Corp. Gilad Shalit.

Operation Bashan Oaks - the massive entry into Beit Lahiya, El-Atatra, and other northern Gaza areas - has essentially ended, and the modus operandi has reverted to quick in-and-out raids in Gaza areas as necessary.

IDF artillery fire rained down upon northern Gaza this morning, and Israel Air Force craft attacked four Kassam rocket launching cells today - both being well-practiced exercises over the past days. The IDF bombed a small bridge in northern Gaza.

Dichter Demands Stronger Action
At today's weekly Cabinet meeting, the discussion centered on the diplomatic, informational and military efforts to bring the current crisis to an end. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced that he will be paying a diplomatic visit next week to Germany and Italy.

Public Security Minister Avi Dichter says that the IDF has the ability to put a definitive end to the Kassam rockets, and called upon the government to allow the IDF to do so. "Why wait until our civilians are hit before giving these orders?" Dichter asked.

Foreign Minister Tzippy Livny, on the other hand, said that international legitimacy is more important: "I spoke with six foreign ministers this weekend, and it appears that as long as our military actions remain proportionate, we will have international support."

Prime Minister Olmert said, "We will continue to wage this campaign calmly, patiently and correctly, using the correct means and maintaining the necessary vagueness." Relating to claims that he and Defense Minister Peretz are both inexperienced in military affairs, Olmert said, "I don't know any Prime Minister and Defense Minister who were in a similar situation to the one we now face."

The Offensive Continues
Elsewhere in Gaza, IDF forces are searching for tunnels dug by terrorists who wish to enter Israel, such as those who abducted Corp. Shalit from an IDF base two weeks ago. An infantry force in fact found a chicken coop that was built to camouflage the construction of a tunnel; the chicken coop and the tunnel were then bombed from the air.

IDF Gen. Yoav Galant, Southern District Commander, said, "The IDF is ready for a long operation involving raids. Within a month or two, the Palestinians will count hundreds of dead terrorists, damaged infrastructures and destroyed offices. When they make the overall calculation, I assume that they will think twice before their next attack or abduction attempt."

In other war incidents, Arabs threw firebombs at an Israeli car north of Ramallah, causing no damage or casualties.