IAF Kills Shalit Kidnapper, Palestinian Rocket Attacks Met with Firm Retaliation, ‘Iron Dome’ Successful
Latest update: March 11th, 2012
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking about the escalation in rocket attacks in the South on Friday and Shabbat, said: “We will continue to attack anyone who tries to harm Israeli citizens.”
The Palestinian Ma’an news agency reports that air strikes continue to rock the Gaza Strip, killing three men on Saturday, raising to 15 the number of Palestinians killed since Israel killed a military leader 24 hours earlier.
According to the AP, an Israeli air strike killed the commander of the militant group behind the abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and a second militant in Gaza on Friday in the highest profile attack in months.
The Israeli military confirmed the strike, saying the slain commander Zuhair al-Qaissi was plotting an infiltration attack into Israel similar to the one his group carried out in August that killed eight people and injured 40 more. In a statement, the military warned Gaza’s Hamas rulers against any retaliation for the strike.
What ensued was a barrage of rocket attacks on Israeli towns across the southern region of Israel. Since Friday, Palestinians fired over 90 rockets into Israel.
Netanyahu spoke during the day with the mayors of two municipalities against which rockets were fired, including Be’er Sheva, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Kiryat Malachi, Gan Yavne, Regional Council Sha’ar Negev, and Regional Council Bnei Shimon, and asked them to convey his appreciation for the firm stance of their constituents.
In the meeting, the mayors noted the real defense provided by the “Iron Dome” system to the residents of the southern region. The Prime Minister responded by saying that “we will further improve the protection of the rear by acquiring more Iron Domes, which have tested well again this weekend,” and concluded: “We will continue to hurt all those who are planning to harm Israeli citizens.”
Defense Minister Ehud Barak also spoke in the last few hours with mayors from the south, listened to their reports on the situation in their communities and encouraged them. “The IDF will strike anyone wishing to harm Israeli civilians,” Barak said. “In conjunction, we will continue to enhance the capabilities of the Iron Dome batteries, which intercepted a high percentage of the Grad missiles fired at Israel since last night.”
Barak was accompanied by the Air Force Commander on a visit to an “Iron Dome” battery near Rehovot, and praised the achievements of the rocket interception systems. “This round is still far from over and hostility still exists,” said Barak. “We will not allow anyone to harm Israeli citizens, anyone who tries to fire rockets will pay a heavy price and no one will have immunity.”
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz oversaw the increase in readiness, in anticipation a further round of escalations. Gantz praised the performance of the “Iron Dome” air defense systems, which intercepted more than 25 rockets so far.
According to Ma’an, 26 Palestinians have been injured in the strikes, five of whom are in serious condition, Gaza medical services spokesman Adham Abu Salmiya said.
The latest Air force attack killed two gunmen, and injured three others when it targeted a motorcycle near Rabia Al-Adawiya school in the southern city of Rafah, medics told Ma’an. Earlier, a drone fired on a motorcycle strike east of Khan Younis killing two men.
The dead gunmen were affiliated with the Popular Resistance Committees’ armed wing, whose chief was killed on Friday.
Also on Saturday, Israeli warplanes bombed an Al-Qassam brigades site in western Gaza City, injuring three men who were transferred to al-Shifa hospital. The site was entirely flattened, shattering windows in nearby apartments, witnesses said.
The IDF Spokesman’s office released a statement saying that the strike on Khan Younis “thwarted a terrorist squad from firing a rocket at Israel from the southern Gaza Strip. Direct hits were identified.” It said later strikes on Rafah and Gaza City “targeted two terror activity sites in response to the rockets fired at Israel.”
“The IDF is prepared to defend the residents of Israel and will respond with strength and determination against any attempt to execute terrorist attacks,” the statement read.
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