WESTERN NEGEV - Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip pummeled Israeli communities in the western Negev Thursday afternoon and Friday morning with a massive Kassam rocket and mortar shell barrage.
In the worst day of fighting in more than a month, an estimated 50 rockets and mortars hit southern Israel, setting fires and injuring a 59-year-old Israeli woman, who sustained shrapnel wounds to the neck.
Residents were advised to remain in their bomb shelters and fortified rooms.
Three Hamas terrorists were killed early Friday in an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) attack on a terror cell about to launch rockets from a cemetery in the town of Jabalya.
Earlier Thursday, IDF troops killed two Palestinian terrorists rigging explosives near Israel's security fence at the border with Gaza.
An IDF spokesman said the two were trying to breach the border fence and infiltrate into Israel.
The al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades claimed one of the gunman belonged to their group and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed the second one.
The IDF also prevented a massive terror attack Thursday when terrorists tried to drive a bulldozer loaded with explosives to the border fence. Israeli soldiers stopped the bulldozer with anti-tank missiles, causing the would-be attackers to flee.
Meanwhile, following a four-hour meeting, the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak retracted earlier hints of a large-scale incursion into the Gaza Strip, instead sending Major General (res.) Amos Gilad back to Cairo for another round of talks.
Gilad, who heads the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic Security Bureau, will meet again with Egyptian Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.
The general is expected to convey the Security Cabinet's decision to accept the Egyptian-brokered tadhiyah --temporary calm) if Hamas and the smaller terror groups accept Barak's three-tiered plan, consisting of a halt to terror attacks, followed by a gradual lifting of the economic blockade, which will lead to the reopening of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza.
While Israel originally demanded that there would be no cease-fire without the release of IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit, who has been held captive for nearly two years, the government appears to have accepted Suleiman's promise to push for Shalit's release once the cease-fire is operative.
Gaza-based Palestinian groups warned they will reject any "new conditions."
"Israel must accept the Egyptian initiative unconditionally," they said. "Any attempt to set new conditions will be seen as an attempt to sabotage the Egyptian efforts."
Sources: YNet news, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz