Israeli Incursion Into Gaza Aims to Stop Rocket Fire

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:15 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - The Israeli army mounted a large-scale operation in the northern Gaza Strip overnight aimed at stopping the firing of Kassam rockets and mortar shells at Israeli communities inside Israel and in the Gaza Strip.

An Israeli helicopter thwarted a fresh round of rocket fire, when it fired on a terrorist cell that was attempting to fire a rocket, military sources said. Prior to that, Palestinians had reported two dead from Israeli fire, including a teenager in Gaza.

Palestinian groups have stepped up their firing of mortar shells and the not so accurate but deadly Kassam rockets during the last month and particularly in the last week.

"[They] are terrorizing the communities and their civilians and it should be stopped," a military source said.

There have been about a dozen such operations to stop the firing of the homemade Hamas rockets, but an Israeli army commander was quoted as saying the army would take as long as it needed to stop the attacks.

On Tuesday alone, five Kassam rockets were fired at Israeli targets. Since the beginning of September, 29 Kassams have been launched at Israel, 16 of them during the last week, the army said.

Sderot, a city of some 23,000 residents completely inside Israel but less than a mile from the northern Gaza Strip, has been particularly hard hit by the Kassam rocket attacks.

Eli Moyal, mayor of Sderot was quoted as saying that had a European country been attacked as his city had Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip would have been "wiped off the face of the earth."

On Tuesday, Sderot resident Natan Katanoff said a miracle had saved his life and family when his newly built succa stopped shrapnel from a Kassam rocket from reaching his cooking gas tanks and blowing up his house.

A succa is a small booth or hut usually topped with palm branches that the Bible instructs Jewish people to erect outside their homes for the weeklong festival of Succoth, or the Feast of Tabernacles, which begins here Wednesday evening.

In the central Gaza Strip two Israeli soldiers were lightly wounded when a mortar shell was fired at a military post in the settlement of Netzarim.

In the West Bank city of Jenin, Israeli troops arrested Mohammed Seika, an aide to Zacharia Zubeidi, the leader of the Tanzim faction of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's Fatah in Jenin.

Zubeidi has been accused of planning suicide bombing attacks, including the suicide attack by a female Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem last week in which two border policemen were killed. Despite an intense manhunt, Zubeidi has so far evaded capture.

And in the West Bank city of Nablus, Israeli troops killed a senior militant of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction, while on a mission to arrest him, the army said.

The unidentified man was shot when he tried to escape and refused to heed calls to stop, a spokeswoman said.

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