The 30-year-old student killed in the strike was apparently in a car, parked next to Sapir College on the outskirts of Sderot, which was hit by a Qassam. He suffered lethal shrapnel wounds to the chest.
The rocket barrage occurred hours after an Israel Air Force strike killed five Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip who were apparently planning a large scale terrorist attack against Israel after having been trained in Iran. The Shin Bet security service ventured a guess that the severity of the rocket attack against Israel Wednesday afternoon reflected the central role the dead Hamas men had played in the organization.
One of the Qassam rockets directly hit a home in Sderot, while another exploded in a factory mess hall shortly after the workers had exited.
Several people suffered shrapnel wounds in the attack, and seven people suffering light injuries and shock were evacuated to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon.
Later, a Qassam rocket exploded near the Ashkelon hospital and several more people suffered from shock. Four rockets struck various sites in Ashkelon.
Hamas' military wing claimed responsiblity for firing the Qassams.
Israel frequently carries out airstrikes and brief ground incursions in Gaza to halt the rocket attacks, and it appeared likely that the deadly rocket barrage would draw a new Israeli reprisal.
Earlier Wednesday, at least six Palestinian militants, most from the extremist Hamas movement, were killed in operations by the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In southern Gaza, an Israel Air Force air strike destroyed a minivan carrying Hamas members, killing five. Hamas said that the dead included a senior engineer involved in the production of the Qassam rockets fired at southern Israel from Gaza on a daily basis, as well the commander of a local rocket-launching squad.
Two other Hamas members were wounded in the airstrike, according to Hamas and Dr. Moaiya Hassanain of the Gaza Health Ministry.
Minutes after the first explosion, an IAF missile struck another car nearby. Witnesses said the militants in the car had abandoned the vehicle for the white minivan shortly before the strike. There were no casualties in the second attack.
The IDF confirmed the strikes, which it said targeted vehicles transporting militants. Israel is targeting Palestinians responsible for the daily Qassam barrages.
Local residents who knew the men said some of them had undergone training in Syria or Iran and returned home after Hamas breached the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt in defiance of an Israeli blockade of the territory of 1.5 million people.
Abu Ubaida, spokesman of Hamas's Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, denied they had traveled outside the Gaza Strip.
Also Wednesday, IDF elite troops operating in the center of the West Bank city of Nablus killed one Palestinian and wounded three others.
The IDF said that the commando patrol spotted a group of five men, one carrying a pistol. The group fled after they were asked to stop by the troops, who then opened fire. Four of the men were wounded, including the man who later died in an Israeli hospital. Another of the group was said to be in critical condition.
In the early hours of Wednesday, a gunman from Islamic Jihad was killed during clashes with IDF troops in central Gaza, the militant organization said. The man's body was taken to hospital in Gaza on Wednesday morning.
The IDF said a militant approached the Gaza-Israel border fence late Tuesday and that soldiers had seen an explosion, likely caused by explosives the militant was carrying.
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