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Friday, December 22, 2006

Palestinians fire Three Qassam rockets at western Negev

Last update - 23:30 22/12/2006   

Palestinians fire Three Qassam rockets at western Negev
By Aluf Benn, Avi Issacharoff and Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondents, and Haaretz Service

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired three Qassam rockets Friday evening into the western Negev.
The first rocket landed in a kibbutz residential area, shattering several windows. No injuries were reported.
The second strike caused some damage to a bank building in the center of the western Negev city of Sderot. Two people were treated for shock.
The third rocket landed in an open field and caused no damage or injuries.
Early Friday morning, a Qassam rocket landed in an open field in the western Negev causing no injuries.
On Thursday, Palestinians shot six Qassam rockets, two of which landed in the center of Sderot.
The first strike on the city, which occurred in the early evening, shattered some windows on a local structure, and several people were treated for shock. Another rocket, fired shortly afterward, also hit an area in the center of town, sending pieces of shrapnel flying into a bus. Three people were taken to hospital due to ringing in their ears.
Islamic Jihad confirmed firing the rocket in a phone call to The Associated Press in Gaza.
Another Qassam fired earlier in the day hit a house in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanun, wounding five Palestinians. Another rocket landed in a field inside Palestinian territory.
The first errant rocket blew through the home's living room and exploded in a bedroom where three children were sleeping, relatives said.
Two-year-old Samir al-Masri suffered two broken legs in the attack, said Dr. Said Judeh of Kamal Adwan hospital. The boy's 4-year-old sister and 3-year-old brother were lightly wounded by shrapnel, said their uncle, Jad al-Masri.
Another hit near a western Negev kibbutz, causing no damage or injuries, while the sixth also landed inside Palestinian territory.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. But the militant group Islamic Jihad fired at least six rockets at Israel on Wednesday, saying it was avenging the deaths of two members in an Israeli arrest raid in the West Bank.
Security cabinet to decide whether to uphold cease-fire
The security cabinet will meet early next week to decide whether to uphold the cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, Israel Radio reported Friday.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert decided Thursday to press on with Israel's policy of restraint toward the Qassam rocket fire from Gaza, which has continued despite the declaration of a bilateral cease-fire. Nonetheless, he informed Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas that this restraint cannot last much longer if the launches of the past few days persist.
Olmert apparently does not want to jeopardize his planned meeting with Abbas, which he hopes will demonstrate that he is making diplomatic progress.
However, Defense Minister Amir Peretz urged Olmert on Thursday to reconsider the policy of restraint in the face of cease-fire violations, as did Ministers Benjamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) and Eli Yishai (Shas).
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired a Qassam rocket on the Negev on Friday and six on Wednesday, two of which landed in the center of the western Negev town of Sderot.
Residents of Sderot and other towns near the Gaza Strip said Friday they plan to ask the High Court of Justice to order the Israel Defense Forces to respond to the Qassam fire.
"We will demand that [the High Court] instruct the government, instruct the IDF, the Israel Defense Forces, to defend the citizens of the state and act against those launching the Qassams," Sderot resident Avi Farhan told Israel Radio on Friday.
"We will also argue that the government is discriminating between communities on the periphery and in the center," he said. "If Qassams were being fired on Tel Aviv or Ramat Aviv, I have no doubt that the government would have acted long ago to eradicate the phenomenon."
Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and Shin Bet security service head Yuval Diskin told Olmert and Peretz on Thursday that an Israeli military response to the Qassams would serve the interests of Hamas and Islamic Jihad because the militant groups believe it would bolster them in their internal battle against Abbas' Fatah faction.
A senior PA official gave Haaretz an identical assessment: Hamas, he said, is making no effort to stop other organizations from firing Qassams because an Israeli military response would deflect public anger against Hamas over the recent violent infighting with Fatah. An Israeli incursion into Gaza would also force Abbas to shelve his proposal for new elections, the source said.
In addition, a government source said, though it has been breached time and again, the cease-fire has reduced the number of Qassam launches significantly, so "the benefits of ending the cease-fire would not be great."

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