JERUSALEM (JWN and agencies)—A Grad rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip was intercepted Thursday by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system before it could hit Be’er Sheva. Two other Grads exploded harmlessly near Ofakim and Netivot.
The IDF Home Front Command once again ordered schools closed in the South as the rocket attacks continued. Children in five cities stayed home Thursday: Be’er Sheva, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Kiryat Malachi, and Gan Yavne.
The attacks apparently came in response to a Wednesday night strike by the Israel Air Force that demolished a rocket-launching site in northern Gaza and a weapons-smuggling tunnel in southern Gaza. The Palestinian Authority did not report any casualties in the strikes.
The IAF attacks came in retaliation for two Grad missiles fired at Be’er Sheva on Wednesday night, in violation of the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire that went into effect on Tuesday.
Military analysts have suggested that the latest rocket attacks were perpetrated by small, splinter terrorist groups that are beyond the control of Islamic Jihad, which was responsible for most of the more than 200 rockets fired into southern Israel over the past week. Islamic Jihad has denied any involvement in Thursday’s rocket fire.
Defense officials believe Hamas does not want another round of attack-and-reprisal for the moment, and is trying to restrain splinter factions. On the other hand, Israel’s ongoing policy is to carry out targeted killings of terrorists if it receives warnings of an imminent attack.
Earlier Wednesday, one of the Palestinian terrorist splinter factions attempted to fire a mortar round at the western Negev, but it fell short and landed in the Gaza Strip. No self-inflicted Palestinian casualties were reported.
“There’s no magic solution to rockets,” GOC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Tal Russo said Wednesday on a visit to a high school in the Be’er Sheva suburb of Omer. “There won’t be a complete solution even if we embark on another round of fighting.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday canceled a scheduled trip to Paris and Madrid to discuss Iran’s nuclear program with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the new Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy. The stated reason was “the security situation in southern Israel.”