Gaza War: Grad Rockets Hit Beersheba

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CBNNews.com - BEERSHEBA, Israel - The 200,000 residents of the southern Israeli city of Beersheba joined the growing number of western Negev communities coming under Palestinian rocket fire.

Grad-type rockets damaged a kindergarten Tuesday and an empty school room Wednesday morning.

Talk of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas has stalled.This comes after Hamas fired more than 30 rockets by mid-morning. Click play for more from CBN News Mideast Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell.

Thirty-four residents were treated for shock.

Following Tuesday's attack, IAF pilots successfully destroyed the launch site from which the missiles were fired.

The Beersheba municipality closed city schools, adhering to an earlier IDF (Israel Defense Forces) Home Front Command directive to close all schools within a 25-mile radius of the Gaza Strip. Theaters were also closed, but Ben-Gurion University of the Negev remained open.

The city's residents were told to stay within 45-second range of secure rooms and bomb shelters.

IDF Home Front Command head Yair Golan praised residents of southern Israel for their bravery under rocket fire in a press conference on Tuesday in Ofakim.

Golan admonished residents to obey the Home Front Command's directives because they "save lives." He also commended the way in which municipal workers have been responding to citizens under duress.

Hamas Gov't. Buildings, Smuggling Tunnels

Despite some international criticism alleging "disproportionate force," Israeli aircraft targeted more than 30 Hamas sites overnight, including Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's house.

IAF strikes also destroyed several dozen smuggling tunnels along Gaza's border with Egypt Wednesday morning, including a fuel tunnel. On Sunday, the IAF demolished 40 smuggling tunnels.

The western Negev cities of Kiryat Malachi and Kiryat Gat were both hit by Grad rockets, Channel 2 reported.

In a separate attack, a rocket severely damaged the building housing the dining room on a kibbutz (agricultural community), but no one was injured.

A Kassam scored a direct hit on a Sderot home. One person sustained shrapnel wounds, and three others were treated for shock.

Another rocket hit a back yard in Sderot, and five more landed in parks and other open areas in the city.

Two people were lightly injured by shrapnel in Ashkelon Wednesday morning, and another Grad-type rocket struck Route 6, Channel 2 reported.

Security Cabinet Meets

Meanwhile, following a closed session Wednesday, the National Security Cabinet decided to continue the Gaza operation until "all goals are reached."

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Shin Bet (General Security Agency) head Yuval Diskin, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and Military Intelligence head Major General Amos Yadlin attended the session.

"We did not begin the Gaza operation to finish it with rocket fire continuing as it did before," Olmert said. "Israel has restrained itself for years and given plenty of chances for calm," he said.

The Cabinet had already rejected a French proposal for a 48-hour cease-fire.

"Giving Hamas a respite just to regroup, rearm is a mistake," Mark Regev, spokesman for the prime minister's office, said following the meeting. "The pressure on the Hamas military machine must continue," he said.

Earlier, Cabinet ministers approved Barak's request for an additional 2,500 reservists to supplement the 6,700 two days ago, in preparation for a major ground incursion.

Rice Spearheads Call for Cease-fire

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice organized a conference call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon, and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

Following the meeting, they issued a statement on behalf of the Quartet (United States, European Union, Russia, United Nations) demanding an "immediate cease-fire that would be fully respected."

On Tuesday, Israel rejected French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner's call for a "humanitarian cease-fire," citing truckloads of food, medicine and supplies that are being transported daily to Gaza.

Nonetheless, French President Nicholas Sarkozy announced Tuesday evening that he would meet with Livni in Paris on Thursday. The foreign minister plans to brief Sarkozy in preparation for his visit to Jerusalem on Monday, where he hopes to promote a cease-fire.

IDF Chief Praises Troops

At a joint press conference Tuesday afternoon with Israeli President Shimon Peres, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. General Gabi Ashkenazi said he was "very pleased with the [Gaza] operation at this point."

"Difficult times are awaiting us," the chief of staff told reporters. "I am sure we will overcome them," he said, praising the forces and what they'd been able to accomplish in the first four days of the operation.

Ashkenazi also thanked the public for its support and praised southern residents, who have been "living under constant threat. "Their support, he said, "extends our endurance."

Sources: The Associated Press, The Jerusalem Post, YNet news, Haaretz

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