Gaza Terrorists Fire Rockets at Ashkelon, Israel

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- On the eve of the second round of Palestinian prisoner releases -- a "goodwill gesture" that brought the Palestinian Authority back to direct negotiations with Israel -- terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired four rockets at the coastal city of Ashkelon early Monday.

The Iron Dome Missile Defense System destroyed one of the incoming projectiles.

The Israel Air Force responded by targeting two underground rocket launch pads in northern Gaza, confirming direct hits.

The Color Red air raid sirens sounded shortly before residents heard the familiar sound of exploding metal and shrapnel. The rockets landed in open areas with no reports of injuries or property damage.

"This targeted strike, based on IDF intelligence and advance Air Force capabilities, is an immediate response to the terrorist aggression and its infrastructure in Gaza," IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner reported.

"Hamas must take responsibility for these actions or pay the price for inaction," he said. "We will continue to safeguard the civilians of the State of Israel and prevent future attempts of terrorism formulating in the Gaza Strip."

On Sunday, two mortar shells landed next to the security fence along the southern end of the Gaza Strip.

Earlier, the government released a statement saying a ministerial committee authorized the release of an additional 26 Palestinian prisoners.

"All of the prisoners slated for release perpetrated offenses before the Oslo Accords and served prison sentences of 19-28 years. Twenty-one of them are from Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] and five are from the Gaza Strip," the statement read.

"A list of the prisoners will be issued later this evening on the Israel Prison Service website after those bereaved families that asked to be notified in advance will have been informed. The releases will be carried out at least 48 hours after the list is published.

"It should be emphasized that any prisoner who resumes hostile activity will be returned to serve the remainder of his sentence," the statement concluded.

Statistics have shown that a large percentage of prisoners return to terrorism following their release.

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