Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues in the South

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip picked up the pace of rocket fire again Sunday evening, firing more than 20 potentially deadly projectiles on southern Israel through midday Monday.

The latest assault coincided with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, second visit to Israel. The general is meeting with senior Israeli defense and military officials to assess the joint U.S.-Israeli Austere Challenge 12 exercise. On Tuesday, Gen. Dempsey will tour an Iron Dome battery, which has been extremely effective in intercepting incoming rockets and missiles.

The Israel Defense Forces instructed residents to stay within a 15-second sprint to bomb shelters and safe rooms.

School children in Beersheva, who stayed home on the first day of school after two Grad-type Katyusha missiles exploded in open areas at the edge of the city, returned to their classrooms Monday.

Earlier Sunday, terrorists fired mortar shells at an IDF unit patrolling the security fence along the border with Gaza. The IDF targeted the cell as it prepared to launch more rounds, killing one man and injuring another.

Palestinian authorities did not immediately release the victim's name.

Last Wednesday, Israel's Arab neighbors in Gaza fired more than 80 rockets, mortars and missiles, injuring three people -- two seriously -- and damaging eight homes in five towns, before an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire that lasted less than 10 hours.

Hamas Steps Up to the Plate

In the most recent escalation, Hamas took responsibility vis-à-vis its "military" wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

Often in the past, the Palestinian faction ruling Gaza let smaller terror groups take credit for daily rocket attacks, sometimes claiming it was trying to reign in renegade groups defying its orders.

Those familiar with Hamas's pattern say their statements are disingenuous. Hamas is often given the benefit of the doubt when claiming the attacks are "in response to the continued Israeli aggression in Gaza."

A report by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) last June said Hamas "turns a blind eye" to terror activity.

"Despite its claims about striving to preserve the calm on the Gaza Strip border and prevent rocket fire from there against Israel, in reality Hamas turns a blind eye to such activity, allowing terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip to launch rockets and conduct other terrorist attacks against Israel," the report stated.

The IDF Spokesperson's Office issued the following statement Monday.

"In response to the incessant rocket fire at southern Israel, IAF aircraft targeted a rocket launching site and a terror activity site in the northern Gaza Strip as well as a terror activity site in the southern Gaza Strip. Direct hits were confirmed," the statement read.

Gov't. to Fortify Homes, Schools 

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced last Wednesday the government would foot the bill to fortify some 1,700 homes within close range (about two to four miles) of Palestinian rocket fire. The government also plans to add more than 1,600 "secure rooms" and fortify more schools.

Netanyahu made the announcement while touring an Iron Dome defense battery deployed near the coastal city of Ashkelon.

The prime minister said he'd decided to adopt recommendations by Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter to fortify the residences.

Netanyahu also said more Iron Dome batteries, which are performing "fantastically," would be deployed in areas vulnerable to rocket attacks.

"There is a stretch of land where only education establishments have been fortified," he said. "And I have decided to order the fortification of the entire space."

Barak said the plan "will close a gap for residents who are being tested each and every day."

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YNet contributed to this report.

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