Gaza terrorists escalated their attacks on the western Negev Wednesday, launching a barrage of Kassam rockets at the coastal city of Ashkelon shortly before 11:00 a.m. A number of strategic installations are located in the area, including an electric power plant. The attacks continued throughout the day, with another barrage hitting the western Negev just before 4:00 p.m.

At least two of the more advanced types of the homemade missiles struck the southern section of the city during the morning, sending several people into severe emotional shock. Three workers at a factory in the city's industrial zone were evacuated to Barzilai Hospital after they complained of ringing in their ears following the attack.

A third Kassam rocket slammed into an area near Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, an agricultural community south of Ashkelon that is world famous for its honey, jams, oils and other condiments. No one was injured in the kibbutz and there were no reports of damage.

Later in the day, four Kassam rockets struck several open fields in the western Negev as well, but there were no reports of injuries or damage.

The attacks bring the number of missiles fired at Israel since the beginning of the day to 14 rockets and one mortar shell. The first barrage by Gaza terrorists began just as children were leaving their homes to go to school Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday, the number of rockets that have struck the western Negev in the past eight years topped the 10,000 mark.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak has ordered the Gaza Crossings to remain closed for a second day in response to the attacks. Barak decided to close the crossings on Tuesday in retaliation for the rocket fire, cancelling a delivery of foodstuffs and other humanitarian aid to the region as a result.