Gaza terrorists escalated attacks on the western Negev Tuesday, pushing to 10,046 the number of mortar and rocket attacks the past eight years. The IDF spotted and hit one rocket-launching cell.
One Israeli suffered shock in the latest barrage, which included five Kassam rockets and a mortar shell. One rocket exploded in a soccer field next to the Sapir College, located adjacent to Sderot, and the other rockets landed in open areas outside the city.
The IDF identified and hit a Kassam launcher in northern Gaza, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced that he would continue diplomatic non-military retaliation by keeping Gaza crossings closed and preventing trucks from bringing goods into the region.
The Islamic Jihad took responsibility for the latest barrage, which it said was a response to the IDF's eliminating one of its leaders near Jenin, in Samaria, early Tuesday morning.
Media outlets have been emphasizing December 19 as the end of six months since outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed to the June 19 ceasefire, although no expiry date was set in the unsigned agreement.
Hamas has adopted the date as the end of the pact and has threatened to consider the agreement void even thought it already does not exist in practice. Terrorists from Hamas and allied organizations attached the western Negev and as far north as Ashkelon with more than 50 rockets and mortars between June 19 and November 4, when the IDF carried out a counterterrorist operation against a cell planning to kidnap IDF soldiers.
More than 225 attacks were registered in the past six weeks, and the Sderot Media Center reported that 7,000 mortars and rockets have been fired since Israel executed the "Disengagement" program in the summer of 2005. The government expelled more than 7,000 Jewish residents of Gush Katif and northern Gaza, withdrew all military personnel and surrendered control of the Philadelphi Route, which includes the Rafiah area used to smuggle explosives and weapons into Gaza.
Israel political leaders Tuesday continued to threaten military retaliation "at the proper time." Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is campaigning in the Knesset elections as chairman of the Labor party, told visiting Austrian President Heinz Fischer, "If the lull is violated and the situation requires it, we will act in the proper manner."