Terrorists Fire Rocket Near Power Plant

Arab terrorists Saturday continued to bombard Israel with mortar shelling and rockets, one of which exploded near a major power facility.<BR><br/>

, | updated: 23:31

A Kassam rocket fell Friday south of the Ashkelon power plant, just north of Gaza and within Israel's pre-1967 borders. Critics of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan have pointed out that an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza would bring the power plant within striking range of Kassam rockets. The Ashkelon facility is Israel's major source of electricity besides the facility near Hadera, north of Tel Aviv.

Another Kassam exploded near the community dining room of a kibbutz (collective community) between Sderot and Gaza without causing injury, and one landed in a residential area in Sderot. Terrorists fired more than a dozen mortar shells since Friday despite the IDF's three-day-old Purple Iron offensive intended to combat such attacks.

No Israelis were injured, though one rocket mistakenly ripped through an Arab house in Gaza and killed a 12-year-old girl and injured her 11-year-old brother.

IDF soldiers have killed several terrorists during the offensive, including one whose unit was carrying an anti-tank rocket launcher and a rocket Friday. They were already 100 yards within the Gush Katif community of Kfar Darom when soldiers spotted them and opened fire. Soldiers also killed one other terrorist and injured two others who were carrying a bomb on the Philadelphi Route bordering Egypt.

The IDF began its offensive after mounting criticism of government policy to maintain a low profile prior to the January 9 elections in which Arabs are to vote for a successor to Yasser Arafat. Defense officials said they feared that Israel would be blamed for disturbing the elections, but the government allowed the IDF to retaliate after attacks increased and spread to areas within Israel's pre-1967 borders. Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), the leading candidate in the PA elections, campaigned in Gaza Saturday but avoided the Khan Younis urban area where the IDF was conducting counter-terror searches.

Egypt Saturday accused Israel of failing to live up to its promises by initiating the counter-terror operation. Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit emphasized "the necessity that Israel implement what it promised [with regard to] facilitating the holding of the Palestinian elections."

The Purple Iron campaign is the most intensive of recent IDF operations which lasted only a day or two. Soldiers have entered into new PA controlled areas, according to Brigadier General Aviv Kokhavi. "The fact is that [terrorist] fire has almost ceased from the usual areas we entered in the two prior operations," he added. "As a result, they have moved into areas where we now are operating and we are covering a lot more [mortar shell and rocket] launching points."