Hamas gunners fired four Qassam rockets into Israel on Thursday, one of which landed in Ashkelon's southern industrial zone. This marked the first time that rockets have landed as far north as the coastal city of Ashkelon.
The rocket landed next to a Carlsberg beer factory in Ashkelon, but caused no injuries. The rockets were fired from the vicinity of Beit Hanun, in the Gaza Strip. No injuries were reported in the incident, Israel Radio reported.
A Palestinian security official in Gaza said Palestinian forces had rushed to the area where a Hamas squad had fired the rocket at Ashkelon, preventing it from launching more rockets. "There was a chase and a shootout," the official told Reuters. "Our forces are still searching the area in the northern Gaza Strip." Israeli military officials dismissed these Palestinian statements.
The latest rocket attack strengthened speculations in the Israeli press that a massive military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip was imminent. "The Palestinian Authority and all of the terror organizations who were involved with the attack on Ashkelon today, have no understanding as to the extent of how the Israeli army will respond," a senior military source was quoted as saying by The Jerusalem Post.
The usual Qassam target is the Israeli town of Sderot, which lies across from the Gaza Strip. But the Israeli army believes that in recent weeks Hamas worked on increasing the range of its rockets by conducting trial launches aimed at the Mediterranean.
Two Qassam rockets landed near Ashkelon earlier this week, but did not hit the city.
Meanwhile, the Hamas intensified its military operations against the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip. At least 13 mortar shells and two anti-tank missiles were fired at Gaza Strip settlements and military outposts overnight Thursday, Israel Radio reported. There were no injuries. (Albawaba.com)
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