A barrage of 25 Kassam rockets and close to 50 mortar shells slammed into the Ashkelon Coast Regional Council and neighboring areas Thursday afternoon.

One rocket exploded close to Ashkelon, home to more than 110,000 Israelis. The Color Red alert system that warns of incoming rockets reportedly did not activate prior to the rocket's impact. A 59-year-old woman was moderately wounded by flying shrapnel in Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, between Gaza and Ashkelon; she was taken to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon for treatment.

30 Meters From Lindenstrauss

A number of rockets slammed into the Eshkol and Sdot HaNegev Regional Council areas, one setting an agricultural field ablaze. Another Kassam exploded in the rocket-battered city of Sderot, but caused no damage. It later turned out that visiting State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss was on his way to a meeting in Sapir College in Sderot when the rocket exploded some 30 meters from him; he was unharmed.

A number of people were treated at the scene by Magen David Adom medics for severe shock, and fires broke out at the point of impact in a number of areas south of the Ashkelon port city. 

The Shaar HaNegev Regional Council meanwhile instructed its residents to remain indoors, preferably in bomb shelters, until further notice.

The View From Gaza

Hamas terror chieftain Ismail Haniyeh, who serves as the prime minister of Gaza, said afterwards that he will refuse to continue to recognize Israel, and that Israel's siege - partial closure of the crossings into Israel - will not break them.  This, despite polls showing that the Gaza population is beginning to prefer Fatah over Hamas.

In Gaza, an Arab sustained moderate shrapnel wounds from a mortar shell that fell short, landing on the Gaza side of the security barrier near the Erez Crossing.

The attack followed a mysterious blast at a terrorist's home in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiyeh, less than a mile from Sderot, in which four people were killed and 30 wounded. The terrorists said they fired the barrage in retaliation for the explosion - though the IDF denied any involvement.

Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri vowed that "Israel will pay the price for the Beit Lahiyeh crime," adding, "The Israeli side made a mistake for which it will pay a heavy price. The [Palestinian Authority] resistance movements know how to collect 'the payment.'"

IDF Denies Responsibility for Gaza Blast

The IDF officially denied responsibility for the powerful explosion that rocked the two-story home of Ahmed Humuda, a member of the Hamas organization's military wing, the Izz a-Din al-Kassam Brigades.  It was not clear whether Humuda was in the house at the time of the explosion.

Beit Lahiyeh is a favorite site for terrorists to launch attacks against Israeli civilians in western Negev communities.

Hamas blamed Israel for the explosion and said the Israel Air Force had carried out an air strike on the building. However, an IDF spokeswoman told Arutz-7's IsraelNationalNews.com that the blast was "an internal explosion" and said firmly that "Israel had nothing whatsoever to do with it."

The IDF later issued a statement saying, "Following media publications about an explosion in a structure in the northern Gaza Strip, the IDF wishes to emphasize that inquiry results show that there was no IDF activity in the area and the IDF is not involved in the incident."