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Security Cabinet Ends Discussion, Embargo on Details

The Security Cabinet has ended its discussion Wednesday on how to respond to the non-stop barrage of rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu and Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 12/24/2008, 7:50 AM / Last Update: 12/24/2008, 4:42 PM

Israel News Photo: Flash 90

The Security Cabinet finished its discussion on the situation in Gaza Wednesday afternoon, and the ministers reportedly came to a decision regarding actions to be taken in response to the escalating and increasingly deadly bombardment of Jewish communities by Gaza terrorists. However, Prime Minister Olmert placed a media blackout on the conclusions drawn in the meeting.

The cabinet also decided to declare 35 groups as terrorist organizations.

IDF paratroopers stopped three terrorists who attempted to infiltrate into Israel from Gaza amidst rocket and mortar fire on Wednesday. The soldiers shot the terrorists and wounded them. Nonetheless they managed to escape.

The incident occurred as the Security Cabinet was meeting to decide Israel's response to a rain of nearly 60 short and medium-range rockets and mortar shells that had left a trail of terror from the Gaza Belt to Ashkelon since midnight.

At least 31 civilians have been treated for traumatic shock on Wednesday alone. 

A Kassam rocket was launched at the area around the Kerem Shalom Crossing at around 3:30 p.m. A mortar shell was also fired toward the same area.

Five mortar shells landed in open areas in the Eshkol region a few minutes after 3:00 p.m. No one was injured and no damage was reported in the barrage. Two mortar shells struck a kibbutz in the area a bit earlier, both exploding within close proximity to occupied buildings.

Three southern residents who suffered shock after their factory was shelled in the same area were taken to Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva.

Several mortar shells slammed into a factory in Moshav Nir Oz shortly after 1:00 p.m. No one was injured in the attack. Three mortar shells were fired, also with damaging accuracy, at a factory and a hothouse in the same area at around 12 noon. Miraculously, no one was injured in those attacks either.

A long-range rocket slammed into a house in a moshav near Netivot at around 11:45 a.m. The house was heavily damaged, sending at least two people into traumatic shock.

Less than an hour earlier, two rockets struck the Netivot industrial zone, sending two civilians into traumatic shock and damaging a water pipe burst and several cars. Two medium-range rockets, believed to be a Grad-type Katyusha missiles, scored a direct hit on a home and on a factory in the port city of Ashkelon at about the same time. Two workers in the factory were slightly injured in the attack.

According to the owner of the house, who related her experience of the attack on Voice of Israel government radio, the explosion from the missile's landing in the yard broke the windows in a nearby car, as well as the house, which was heavily damaged. "If someone had been next to the window of the 'security room' the rocket would have hit them directly," she said. Three children were home at the time; a fourth is currently serving in the IDF. "We had a 10-second warning," she added. "That's it."

A wave of four Kassam rockets was also fired 15 minutes later at Sderot, located less than  two kilometers (less than a mile) from Gaza. Four civilians were treated for traumatic shock, and a building sustained damage in the attack.

The Magen David Adom (MDA) medical emergency service raised its alert status to the the highest level possible by midmorning, putting 120 ambulances on red alert.

A short-range Kassam rocket slammed into a roof of a kibbutz home in the pre-dawn hours, causing damage but no injuries, and others exploded in Ashkelon shortly after dawn. The attacks began around 2:30 in the morning, with three rockets and nine mortars fired before people began going to work. Three more rockets were fired at the Sderot area around 7:30 a.m. without causing damage. One rocket exploded near Miflasim in an open area shortly before 10:00 a.m. No one was injured and no local damage reported.

Security sources said an army base was also damaged. Four rockets exploded in and around the Negev city of Netivot, burial place of the Sephardic Kabalistic Sage, the Baba Sali. In addition, two rockets exploded next to a factory in Ashkelon.

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas official, said a truce could be renewed "if Israel respects the conditions of a ceasefire." The previous June 19 agreement was broken by Hamas dozens of times in the first five months and then crumbled into pieces in early November after the IDF discovered a Hamas plot to use a tunnel to kidnap IDF soldiers.

Hamas's conditions for a ceasefire, as in the past, are the opening of all Gaza crossings and a halt to all IDF counterterrorist operations.

Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said six months ago that freeing kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit hinged on the June 19 agreement, but Hamas has not referred to the soldier in its latest announcements. Nor has the terrorist group allowed access to the captive soldier by any individual or international organization, including the International Red Cross Association, in direct violation of the Geneva Convention.