In what Israeli officials were calling the first artillery attack on greater Jerusalem since the 1967 Six-Day War, Palestinians in Beit Jala fired a mortar shell Tuesday night at Jerusalem?s Gilo neighborhood.

Police told reporters that the shell landed in the center of Gilo, which previously was thought to be beyond the range of Palestinian armaments.

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Israeli tank sits between a mosque and a church during exchange of gunfire with Palestinians in the middle of Beit Jala.

The 60-millimeter shell hit a community center which was empty at the time. Damage was described as light and no casualties were reported. Prior to the mortar attack, Palestinians had opened fire with large caliber machine guns on the front-line Ha?anafa Street and Israeli Army outposts on the edge of the neighborhood. A mobile broadcasting station owned by Israel TV Channel One was reportedly hit by some of the gunfire.

IDF sources said the Palestinians are intent on proving that Israel?s incursion earlier in the week into Beit Jala will not prevent them from firing on Gilo, a favored target in recent months.

The army says it does not intend to remain in the Palestinian Authority-controlled town, and that the forces deployed there would likely leave in the next few days, pending termination of Palestinian sniper fire into Gilo.

Cabinet secretary Gideon Saar said the IDF would not remain in the town ?forever.?

There were no injuries sustained by Israeli troops when they moved into Beit Jala late Monday as Palestinians forces put up what officers considered light resistance.

Palestinian sources reported one dead, one wounded, and seven sustaining lighter wounds from IDF fire. Heavy IDF infantry and armor forces, backed up by armored personnel carriers and bulldozers, moved into the town as IAF helicopters hovered overhead, providing air cover.

The forces took over a number of buildings reportedly used as snipers? nests for repeated attacks against the Israeli neighborhood.

Gilo came under renewed fire Monday evening after a two-week lull. Gilo resident Uri Mizrahi, 58, was lightly wounded when he was hit in the shoulder on Rehov Polsky. He was taken to Hadassah-Ein Kerem, where he was listed in good condition.

A synagogue, 31 apartments, the roof of a gas station, and one car were damaged by the Palestinian gunfire, which started at 7 p.m. and continued intermittently into the night.

After the last attack in Gilo two weeks ago, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the neighborhood would not come under fire again, hinting a major military response would be forthcoming.
? Additional reporting by Avraham Shmuel Lewin and JPFS.


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Jason Maoz served as Senior Editor of The Jewish Press from 2001-2018. Presently he is Communications Coordinator at COJO Flatbush.