Massive Rocket Attack; Sharon Holds Fire

Terrorists continued massive mortar and rocket attacks Saturday on Israel, wounding dozens. PM Sharon allowed IDF air-strikes, but put on hold a ground response after Rice said she will visit.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu , | updated: 00:25

Sixteen people, including seven children, were injured in a Kassam rocket blast on a house in Nissanitin northern Gaza on Saturday evening. They were hospitalized with light to moderate wounds.

Ten rockets and mortar shells exploded on Sderot throughout Saturday, continuing the shelling which became heavy there Friday. Several residents became hysterical. The two-day assault on Sderot caused many residents to flee to friends and relatives further away from Gaza. The remaining residents mostly stayed inside their homes, except to walk to synagogue Friday night and Saturday.

One shell fell in the yard of the Abutbul residence, killing the family’s German Shepherd, causing damage to the house and narrowly missing family members who were preparing to walk outside. Another shell caused heavy damage to a rehabilitation swimming pool that was empty of people at the time. The explosion will prevent more than 1,000 physiotherapy treatments scheduled each month. Further south, in Gush Katif, attacks caused only light damage.

The IDF, after several air raids on Friday, fired missiles at several metal workshops in an additional air raid Saturday morning. A drone plane fired a missile at Arab terrorists armed with shells and rockets.

The IDF put troops on combat readiness for a ground assault in Gaza, but The New York Times reported that an assault is unlikely because American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to visit this week. Mofaz stated that Israel will take all necessary steps against terrorists but also will "give the Palestinian Authority time to control the violence."

Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) appealed to Arabs to cease the shelling but also blamed Israel for escalating the violence.

The United Nations condemned Israel for killing terrorists and called on Jerusalem to continue a policy of restraint. After funerals Saturday for terrorists who died in one of the missile strikes, Hamas organized a rally of 10,000 terrorists and supporters. As the crowd yelled, "Revenge, Revenge," a Hamas terrorist leader declared that the Israeli retaliation "opens the doors of hell" and that "Kassams will be like rain at the chest of our enemies."

In addition to the sudden announcement of US Secretary Rice’s visit this week, Egypt will send a delegation to Gaza on Sunday to try to dissolve tensions between Hamas and the PA, which have erupted into battles similar to those in a civil war.

Hamas gunmen seriously injured a PA policeman Saturday night. Earlier in the day, PA policemen turned back Hamas terrorists who tried to force storeowners to shut down their shops. Friday's Arab-Arab clashes killed two unarmed Arab teenagers and injured 30 others, including PA policemen who had fired at terrorists launching mortar shells. Hundreds of residents spontaneously backed the Hamas terrorists and threw rocks and other objects at the PA police.

Hamas gunmen torched several PA armored vehicles and police stations in Gaza and also raided a police station in Shechem in order to free one of its jailed members.

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