Rockets Still Hitting Southern Israel

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - The war in Lebanon is over, but Israel is still under attack from terrorists firing rockets from the Gaza Strip.

A female Israeli soldier was wounded Tuesday in a rocket attack on the southern Israeli city of Sderot. The army says about 40 rockets have landed inside Israel between August 28 and September 26.

Despite extensive Israeli military operations inside the Gaza Strip over the summer, rockets have continued to fall inside Israel almost daily, and one city official said the attack on Tuesday -- involving two rockets -- was worse than any before it.

"What can we think? It gets worse every day," Sderot spokesman Yossi Cohen said in a telephone interview.

Cohen said that while media attention has focused on the situation in northern Israel and on the investigation into sexual misconduct of Israeli President Moshe Katsav, residents of Sderot are suffering.

Sderot's Mayor Eli Moyal was quoted by the Israeli website Ynet as saying that no one in the government has called to ask him about the security situation in Sderot for more than two months.

Because of its proximity to the Gaza Strip, Sderot is the town most frequently hit by Kassam rockets, attacks that started even before Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip last year.

A military source said the army is still targeting rocket-launching cells and firing artillery into the Gaza Strip, but less than it did over the summer.

On Tuesday, one of the two rockets struck near the city's open air market, where hundreds of people were doing their early morning shopping. It sprayed shrapnel, wounding one soldier, and causing a two-hour power outage in the city, Cohen said.

According to Cohen, Tuesday's blast was more powerful than previous rocket attacks and he said the rocket appeared to be more advanced than others before it.

Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for firing the rockets, which it described as Quds 3, from the Gaza Strip.

Cohen called it a "miracle" that more people were not injured, although many suffered from shock. "I'm not afraid of what happened today, but what will happen tomorrow," he said.

The second rocket landed in someone's yard, damaging the home but causing no injuries.

In a related development, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz told Israeli lawmakers on Tuesday that Israel has foiled a number of terror attacks in the West Bank this month.

"Ten terrorist attacks were thwarted over the past three weeks," local media reports quoted Peretz as saying. The attacks were interrupted in various stages of planning, he said.

Palestinian security forces, meanwhile, uncovered two tunnels linking the Gaza Strip and Egypt on Tuesday. Israeli officials have charged that since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip last summer, weapons and explosives smuggling under the Egyptian-Gaza border has skyrocketed.

In other news, United Nations Human Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland on Monday urged Israel to open up passages from the Gaza Strip into Israel as a goodwill gesture during the Jewish and Muslim holidays.

Egeland also called on Hizballah to prove that the two Israeli soldiers it abducted on July 12 are alive, the Associated Press reported.

Israel lifted its general closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Monday following the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, which roughly coincides with the beginning of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

The army said that it considered the holiday period to be a "highly sensitive time, security-wise" and would therefore "enhance its alertness" to protect Israelis while preserving the daily life of Palestinians.

Goods and fuel crossings into the Gaza Strip were also opened on Monday in an "effort to ease limitations" on Palestinians who are not involved in terrorism, the army said.

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