militants fired nine projectiles, including two Russian Grad
missiles, at Israel Thursday. In response, Israeli aircraft struck
at targets in the Gaza Strip, on the eighth day of the latest round
of creeping escalation between the sides.
The violence Thursday came a day after after a bomb blast at a bus
stop in Jerusalem killed a British woman and wounded 39 Israelis.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who left for Moscow late
Wednesday, had promised a "tough reaction" to that attack, adding,
however, that Israel would act "responsibly and wisely".
By late afternoon, the Gaza militias had fired three makeshift
missiles, and four mortars, as well as the two Grads, a police
Both Grads landed in the vicinity of the port city of Ashdod, which
lies about 25 km north of the Gaza Strip and has a population of
around 200,00 people.
An air raid siren, which went off by mistake in the city of Rishon
L'Tzion, further north, led to mistaken reports that a Grad had
landed in the area.
There were no reports of injuries from any of the missiles, although
several people were said to have been treated for shock.
Israel, for its part, bombed targets in Gaza through the night and
during the day. An army official said those attacks were in response
to the latest round of missile strikes, including the Grads fired
Tuesday night and Wednesday morning at Ashdod and the city of
Beersheba, which lies around 40 km east of the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian first aid officials said two militants were injured
Thursday when an Israeli remote pilotless vehicle targeted them as
they were preparing to launch a missile.
Israel had earlier struck at a smuggling tunnel near Rafah, on the
border with Egypt, and at a Hamas training ground south of Gaza
The Hamas training ground is not far from Gaza City's power station.
But, contrary to earlier reports, the Palestinian witnesses said the
station was not hit.
A military spokeswoman in Tel Aviv said the strikes were a response
to more than 75 mortar shells and three rockets fired from Gaza at
southern Israel since Saturday morning.
Taher al-Nounou, the spokesman of the de facto Hamas government in
Gaza, said de facto Prime Minister Ismail Haniya was "seeking to
calm the situation on the ground" so as not to give Israel an
"excuse" to launch a larger scale offensive in the strip.
He had made telephone calls to the leaders of militant factions,
including Ramadan Shalah, the Damascus-based leader of the Islamic
Jihad faction, which had fired the Grad missiles at Beersheba and
US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, meanwhile, arrived in Israel
and was expected to press the sides to resume peace talks.
Gates met Defence Minister Ehud Barak in the afternoon and,
separately, Netanyahu and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad
Israeli police were on the highest level of alert following
Wednesday's bomb attack in Jerusalem, the first in more than six
years. The bomb was left in a bag at a bus stop opposite the city's
central bus station.