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      2 Grad Katyusha Missiles, 10 Mortar Shells Strike South

      At least two Grad Katyusha missiles struck Be'er Sheva Wednesday. Schools are closed. Gazans fired 10 mortars at civilians in Israel. A mini war?
      By Gil Ronen and Chana Ya'ar
      First Publish: 3/23/2011, 9:50 AM / Last Update: 3/23/2011, 12:57 PM

      Flash 90

      Hamas-linked terrorists in Gaza fired two, possibly three Grad Katyusha missiles Be'er Sheva Wednesday morning with the first attack from a 122-mm Grad missile having struck a residential neighborhood at about 5:30 a.m. local time.

      "I felt two really loud explosions, one on either side of the building," Yocheved R. told Israel National News. "Then a third one, but at first I thought it was just a reverberation. I still am not sure what that was."

      Although Home Front Command has urged residents to head for the shelters when they hear the Color Red incoming rocket alert siren, she and many others have said they don't bother. "What's the point? Many of the shelters are locked," Yocheved said. "You never know which one is open and which one is not." In addition, many of the shelters in Be'er Sheva, considered to be the "capital of the south," were built decades ago, and it is unclear whether they have been refurbished recently -- or not. "At this point, I might be safer in my own home," she added.

      The Islamic Jihad's al-Quds Brigades terrorist organization issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attacks, calling them "a response to the crimes of Zionism against our nation in Gaza."

      Be'er Sheva Mayor Ronny Benilovitch told a news interviewer on Radio Darom Wednesday morning his city would not tolerate further attacks. "We cannot allow ourselves to become accustomed to a missile attack from Gaza every three weeks, every four weeks," he said. "We are telling the IDF, we've had it. That's it. That's it."

      Ten mortar shells were also fired at Israeli population centers Wednesday morning. Seven exploded within the boundaries of the Eshkol local authority, which adjoins the northeastern part of Gaza. Three others exploded in the fields of a kibbutz in the Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council district. They did not hurt anyone or cause any damage to structures.

      A 56-year-old man was wounded by shrapnel from the early-morning Grad missile attack in Be'er Sheva, which landed in the private yard of a residential complex. He was transported to the Soroka Hospital in Be'er Sheba. Three other people were treated by rescue forces for traumatic shock. 
       
      Public schools in Be'er Sheva were closed for the day, although Ben Gurion University of the Negev sent text messages to its student population informing them that classes would be held as usual. 
       
      Two Grads were also fired at Ashdod Tuesday, another attack claimed by the Islamic Jihad's al-Quds Brigades. Following that attack, an IAF aircraft attacked a terrorist cell in northern Gaza and confirmed a hit on target.
       
      Overnight, Israeli Air Force aircraft attacked and killed a terrorist in northern Gaza, at the spot from which he was firing a Grad rocket toward Ashdod.
       
      On Tuesday evening, IAF aircraft attacked a squad of terrorists in Gaza as they attempted to launch a Grad rocket towards Israel. A hit was identified and the IAF planes returned to their base safely.
       
      Hamas has considerably stepped up its missile attacks on Israeli civilians in the past week. Some analysts see the belligerence as an attempt to divert Gazans' attention away from demonstrations in favor of a reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. Others see it as a result of Hama's heightened confidence following recent events in Egypt. Still others see it as an attempt to divert the civil rights denied Gazan population, especially the Fatah sympathizers among them,  from joining the wave of popular uprisings throughout the Middle East.