Lull Ends, Rockets Fly, Terrorists Killed

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CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - The brief two-day respite in rocket attacks launched by Gaza-based Palestinians appears to have ended Thursday morning, with at least 15 rockets fired into southern Israel.

On Tuesday, shortly after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert concluded a visit to Ashkelon, a Grad missile landed in the city.

Olmert told board members at Ashkelon's Barzilai Medical Center, which treats area residents injured in rocket attacks, not to expect an end to Palestinian-launched rockets.

"The Grad [missile] is heavier than the Kassam [rocket], and we have no way of preventing these things [rocket attacks] from recurring," Olmert told hospital board members.

Though Wednesday was an unusual rocket-free day for Israelis residing in western Negev towns and cities, the "unofficial" one-week truce with the Hamas terror group ends Friday.

Rocket attacks resumed Thursday morning, with two Kassams hitting inside the city of Sderot, one in a school soccer field and the other scoring a direct hit on a warehouse, where paramedics treated at least one resident for shock.

A third rocket hit a residential area in Sderot, another one fell short, landing inside the Strip, and the rest hit in open areas outside city limits.

Israel Air Force (IAF) aircraft targeted the launch sites following the morning's rocket salvo. No injuries were reported.

By Thursday afternoon, Palestinians fired more than 25 rockets on southern Israeli communities.

Islamic Jihad Claims Responsibility

Islamic Jihad called the attacks an "initial response" to Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operations in Palestinian Authority- (PA) controlled cities in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). 

In the Arab village of Kfar Tzaida, northeast of Tel Aviv, IDF Border Police and the Shin Bet (General Security Agency) surrounded the house where Islamic Jihad's Salah Karkur, 27, was hiding.

After calling on him to surrender, shots were fired and bombs hurled from inside the house. During the ensuing firefight, Karkur was killed.

Inside the house, IDF forces found a Kalashnikov assault rifle, ammunition and a variety of explosive devices.

Following the gun battle, the IDF used heavy equipment to demolish part of the house and arrested the owner of the house for harboring a wanted terrorist.

In a separate undercover operation in Bethlehem, Israel Police anti-terrorist forces spotted Muhammad Shahade and three other wanted Islamic Jihad commanders in a car.

According to Israeli daily Haaretz, the four men, armed with pistols, grenades and an M-16 rifle, were killed resisting arrest as they left a restaurant near Bethlehem's government building.

Besides Shahade, Islamic Jihad's most senior commander, Imad Kamil, was killed, along with another Islamic Jihad member, Isa Marzuka, and Ahmad al-Balbul, affiliated with Fatah's armed wing, the al-Aksa Martyrs' Brigades.

The four, who were on Israel's most wanted list since the beginning of the second intifada (Palestinian armed uprising) in September 2000, maintained close contact with Islamic Jihad leadership in Syria.

The Shin Bet said the men coordinated a terror network, which among other things dispatched car bombs to Jerusalem, and were in the throes of planning a series of attacks.

Fatah Chairman Mahmoud Abbas Reacts

Despite the fact that four known terror chiefs were killed, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas condemned the IDF operation in Bethlehem.

"This barbaric crime exposes the fake mask on Israel's face, talking about peace but committing daily crimes, murders and executions against our people," read a statement from the PA chairman's office.

"Israel is wrong if it thinks that these crimes will undermine the Palestinian people's firm stand. This people will continue to stand firm, cling to its land, and object to the occupation and to the settlements, until the occupiers and settlers are defeated and the state of Palestine is established with holy Jerusalem as its capital," it read.

Hamas Reacts

Meanwhile in the Gaza Strip, Hamas terror chief Ismail Haniyeh said any cease-fire with Israel would be conditional on the IDF ceasing all operations in the West Bank.

Speaking to students at the Islamic University in Gaza City, Haniyeh expressed solidarity with Palestinians in the West Bank.

"We will not abandon you, our people in the West Bank," said Haniyeh. "The violence directed against you is directed against us," he said.

Sources: Haaretz, YNet news service, The Jerusalem Post

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Tzippe Barrow

Tzippe Barrow

CBN News - Jerusalem Bureau

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