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Kassam Rocket Hits Sderot, Grad Katyusha Attack on Ashdod

Gaza terrorists escalated attacks on southern Israel Thursday with rocket fire to Ashdod and the Gaza Belt region. False alarm in Rishon LeTzion.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 3/24/2011, 3:58 PM / Last Update: 3/24/2011, 4:12 PM

Flash 90

Gaza terrorists continued to aim rocket fire at the Israeli port city of Ashdod on Thursday, as well as at other Jewish communities.

One Grad Katyusha missile apparently slammed into an open area in the city, sending a number of residents into traumatic shock.

Residents said they heard “extremely loud” explosions after racing for shelter in response to the Color Red incoming rocket alert siren.

Others from as far away as Gedera, Gan Yavneh and Ashkelon also reported the Color Red siren was triggered in their communities as well.

“I am wondering if I should come back to Arad for the time being,” commented Devorah P., a young bride who recently went to live in a western Negev community.

Several people suffered shock when sirens went off in Rishon LeTzion, a coastal city farther north than Ashkelon. They turned out to be a false alarm.

Nor were residents of Be'er Sheva left in peace. “We have been sent into the shelters three times since the morning,” said Coby J., an employee at a mobile phone company in the unofficial capital of the south. “All three times it was a malfunction. It was ridiculous.”

A controlled explosion at 2:30 p.m., however, did not raise fears. “Our manager let us know about 10 minutes ahead of time, and we were told to simply 'stay down.' It was fine,” Coby said.

Schools were closed Thursday for a second day in both Ashdod and Be'er Sheva. Although city officials in Ashkelon kept classes open, most parents insisted on keeping their children home and in many cases students were sent home early due to spotty attendance.

By mid-afternoon, five rockets fired from Gaza had exploded in various parts of Israel's western Negev.

A short-range Kassam rocket landed in an open field in the Eshkol Regional Council district at about 2:00 p.m. No one was injured and no damage was reported.

Shortly after noon, another Kassam slammed into an open area in the Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council district. No injuries or damage was reported.

Close to 11:00 a.m. terrorists launched a rocket from northern Gaza that also landed in the Eshkol Regional Council district. No one was injured and no damage was reported.

Just before 9:00 a.m., a rocket landed slightly south of the coastal city of Ashkelon. The rocket, which exploded in an open area in the Ashkelon Coast Regional Council district, also caused no injuries or damage.

The barrage of rocket fire came in response to an attack by the IDF. A tank unit fired into Gaza Thursday morning and destroyed a Hamas terrorist facility in Gaza City, which burst into flames.

The IDF response came in retaliation for the unceasing missile attacks and mortar fire aimed at Israel's southern communities in recent days. Four terrorist targets were struck by Israeli fighter pilots earlier in the day as well.

Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon told reporters that Israel “will not be tolerant of any escalation” in attacks on Jewish communities in Israel. Ya'alon told reporters in the United States, where he is currently traveling, that the war on terror “requires a long battle, but it will not stop us from taking care of whoever shoots at Israel as they have in the last few days, or sends terrorists to the center of cities.

“Hamas is responsible for everything that is shot out of Gaza,” he said, “and if it does not act responsibly, it will pay the price.”