Mortars Kill Israeli Woman Amid High Security for Yom Kippur

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

Jerusalem ( - An Israeli woman was killed when Palestinians fired at least two mortar shells at the southern Gaza Strip settlement of Neve Dekalim on Friday as Israelis prepared to mark the holy fast day of Yom Kippur.

Israeli security forces throughout the country were on heightened alert ahead of the Yom Kippur fast day, military sources said.

In Friday's attack, one of the mortars landed on the woman's home, said Neve Dekalim resident Rachel Saperstein. She added that it is a "miracle" that no one has been killed until now.

Almost 4,500 mortars have fallen on Gush Katif bloc of settlements, most of them launched from nearby Khan Younis.

"We have been under mortar attack for four years," Saperstein said by telephone. "We feel that there is a special quality about this place that has kept people alive... It's a great, incredible miracle."

According to Saperstein, the Palestinians' "favorite time" to launch mortars is at 2:00 in the morning or when the children are on their way to school. Now they have launched mortars before Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year --'to frighten us before this holy day," she said.

Vying for power and wanting to claim victory for having driven Israel out of Gaza, Palestinian terrorists have stepped up their attacks on the Gush Katif and southern Israeli communities ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's planned disengagement plan, that calls for the removal of the area's 7,800 residents as well as military personnel.

One night this week, 19 mortars fell in Gush Katif, Saperstein said. Residents begged the army to respond.

The army said two days ago it had carried out a "pinpoint operation" in Khan Younis against the terrorist infrastructure and had destroyed several buildings from which attacks were launched against Israelis.

But Saperstein said the operation did no good and the mortar fire has started up again.

Overnight, security sources revealed that they had thwarted a suicide bombing in the northern Israeli city of Afula earlier in the week, where a 15-year-old Palestinian boy was to have carried out the attack.

The 15-year-old was given a cellular telephone and 1,000 shekels (about $225) for agreeing to carry out the attack and blow himself up, the sources said. The seven-kilogram (15-pound) bomb filled with nails and shrapnel was smuggled into Israel, hidden in a flour sack.

The attack was planned jointly by in Jenin by a cell of Islamic Jihad and Tanzim, part of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction. The bomber and three other operatives were arrested, sources said.

Despite the high state of alert, three soldiers were killed in an infiltration of an army post at another Gush Katif community in the Gaza Strip on Thursday and a female suicide bomber managed to penetrate into Jerusalem, blow herself up and kill two border policemen on Wednesday.

There are some 40 warnings of possible pending terror attacks, Israel Radio reported on Friday. The territories are under a complete closure at least until the end of Yom Kippur.

Meanwhile, Israelis prepared for the 25-hour fast, of Yom Kippur, which begins at sundown on Friday and ends on Saturday evening.

The most solemn day on the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur - the day's Hebrew name - is the Biblical Day of Atonement.

Many Israelis will spend the day praying and repenting in synagogues throughout the country, where security will be tight.

All public places in the country will be closed from midday Friday until Saturday evening. Public transportation and radio and television broadcasts will also shut down on Friday for the duration of the fast. Most Israelis will refrain from driving and many will fast as they engage in introspection and prayer.