CBNNews.com - ASHKELON, Israel - Since midnight Tuesday, Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip bombarded southern Israel with more than 40 Kassam rockets, Grad missiles and mortar shells, damaging homes and factories and sending residents into shock.
At least seven rockets landed in the coastal city of Ashkelon, and five others hit the southern town of Netivot, a suburb of Ashkelon.
Rockets landed near a factory in Ashkelon's industrial area and another exploded near a children's playground in Netivot. Two people were treated for shock.
One rocket scored a direct hit on a home in Kibbutz Sha'ar Hanegev, and another hit a factory in the Eshkol Regional Council, both attacks causing extensive damage and sending several residents into shock.
The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) Home Front Command ordered residents of Gaza-vicinity communities to keep children indoors.
The Sderot municipality asked all residents to remain in their homes until the situation stabilized.
Magen David Adom -- Israel's national emergency rescue service -- was put on high alert, with 120 ambulances ready to respond as needed.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak cancelled Wednesday's transfer of humanitarian goods to the Gaza Strip, scheduled for 11:00 a.m., and the Security Council convened an emergency meeting to discuss responses to the latest rocket barrage.
Earlier Wednesday morning, Ashkelon's newly elected Mayor Benny Vaknin told Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai that canceling aid to the Gaza Strip was not enough.
"The response must be extremely tough," the mayor said, pointing out that the Grad missiles reaching Ashkelon were more deadly than the smaller Kassam rockets.
"A Grad missile can contain 8 kilograms (17.6 pounds) of explosives and can cause injuries and great damage. If such a missile were to land inside a school, God forbid, a disaster could take place," he said.
"The Grad missiles are only fired by Hamas men, which means there is an intentional policy here by the Hamas government, and therefore we should respond accordingly," he said.
Vaknin told the deputy defense minister that if school buildings were not reinforced, teachers would go on strike after the Hanukkah holiday.
"There are 30,000 pupils and students in the college here and contrary to what people have said, not one school in Ashkelon is fortified," the mayor said.
On Tuesday afternoon, IDF troops from the Paratrooper Brigade's 101st Battalion confronted three Palestinian terrorists attempting to plant a bomb along the security fence near the Gaza-vicinity community of Netiv Ha'asara.
In the ensuing firefight, the three terrorists were killed. No soldiers were injured.
Meanwhile, following a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo on Tuesday, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas said the PA is against any increased Israeli response to the rocket fire.
"We won't agree to an Israeli invasion in Gaza or even an aerial attack," Abbas told reporters.
Some analysts believe the PA would like nothing better than for Israel to take on Hamas, which gained control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, after defeating Abbas's Fatah forces in a bloody military coup.
Sources: YNet news, Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post