Israeli Ground Troops Gather at Gaza Border

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CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli jet fighters and attack helicopters continued precision air strikes on Hamas sites in the Gaza Strip Monday, while artillery batteries and ground troops amassed at the border with the Gaza Strip.

At 9:30 Monday morning, the Color Red warning siren sounded in the coastal city of Ashkelon seconds before a Grad missile hit a construction site in the center of the city.

Is a ground assault possible soon? Click play to watch CBN News Mideast Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell's comments following his report. 

A Bedouin construction worker was killed and 16 others wounded, five seriously, most of them Arab crewmen working at the site. Hamas claimed responsibility for the missile, saying they'd killed a Zionist in the attack.

"I was at home. I heard the siren and whistle [of the incoming missile] and ran to the balcony," Nir Marciano, who lives across the street, told YNet news.

"I heard a small blast, followed by a bigger one, which rocked the house and the windows. It was simply terrifying. The blast was so strong it blew me inside," Marciano said.

The siren continued wailing as more missiles exploded in the city, but no further casualties were reported.

Palestinians fired 60 rockets Monday, compared to 30 Sunday and down from 110 Saturday, but Defense officials warned that Hamas can fire up to 200 rockets a day.

Residents in range of the attacks were reminded to obey the Home Front Command's instructions, staying in close proximity to bomb shelters.

"Hamas's operational capabilities were damaged, but the group still has underground [rocket] launchers, as well as the capability to launch attacks along the security fence and into Israel," one Israeli official said.

"When the weather changes, Hamas will have opportunities that it hasn't had up until now," another official said, referring to forecasts for rain that will affect the air strikes.

Students on 'Extended Hanukkah Break'

Schools remained closed Monday in Sderot and other western Negev communities in what's being called an "extended Hanukkah break."

Early Monday morning, IAF aircraft struck a Hamas compound in Gaza City, which housed the Interior Ministry, the first government building to be hit.

Another sortie targeted Gaza City's Islamic University, where Hamas officials regularly hold meetings. The university is well known for its anti-Israel activities.

The air strike demolished two university laboratories, where professors developed explosives for the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas.

Another IAF air strike razed the group's guest house, located next door to Ismail Haniyeh's house, but he wasn't home. He's gone into hiding, along with other senior officials, among them Mahmoud al-Zahar and Said Siam.

Seven civilians were killed in the overnight air strikes, including four young children, Israel Radio reported.

Since Saturday, 322 Palestinians have been killed; the majority were Hamas police and gunmen, according to human rights activists and Palestinian health officials.

Ground Troops at the Border

Meanwhile, IDF artillery batteries, tanks and infantry troops continued amassing along the border with the Gaza Strip.

Overnight, the Israeli Navy joined the operation, bombing smuggling tunnels, weapons warehouses and explosives manufacturing facilities across the Strip.

The Navy also destroyed several boats used by terror groups in Gaza.

Israel Police, Border Guards and other security personnel have been put on high alert, following warnings by military intelligence of revenge attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups, which could include suicide bombings, kidnapping attempts, sniper and stabbing attacks.

According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, Hamas also threatened to assassinate senior Israeli officials, specifically mentioning Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

The terror group also issued threats against "those in the Arab world who have conspired against us," perceived as senior PA and Egyptian officials.

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

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Tzippe Barrow

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