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IDF strikes targets in Gaza in response to rocket fire

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The IAF struck targets in northern and southern Gaza overnight Wednesday in response to rocket fire from terrorists in the Strip, the IDF Spokesman’s Office announced in a statement.

"During a night air assault a storage site in northern Gaza and tunnel used for smuggling and weapons manufacturing in the southern Gaza Strip" were struck, the statement said, adding that direct hits were identified.

Palestinian sources claimed an Israeli air strike targeted an Islamic Jihad sports facility, and killed two people there.

Earlier, the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted a rocket that was fired toward Beersheba and two rockets that were fired toward Ashkelon.

A nine-month-old baby was lightly wounded in the hand when a Grad-type rocket scored a direct hit on an empty car south of Ashkelon.

The baby was outdoors with a parent when the rocket struck an empty vehicle nearby, causing the injury. The vehicle caught fire and the baby was taken for medical treatment.

The late evening salvo of more than 10 rockets came after three days of quiet, since Hamas declared Gazan groups would stop launching rockets at Israel on Sunday night.

Earlier Wednesday, at least seven rockets hit near Ashkelon and in Ofakim. The rockets were believed to be fired by Islamic Jihad, supposedly in response to an Israel Air Force air strike earlier in the day that killed a senior operative who the IDF said was planning attacks against Israel from the Sinai Peninsula.

Four rockets struck in the Eshkol Regional Council and another two hit open land near Ofakim shortly after another rocket fell in an open field north of the Gaza Strip near Ashkelon. No one was injured in the strikes.

The IDF had prepared for the rocket fire following the air strike against the Islamic Jihad operative and canceled the Briza Festival in Ashkelon that was scheduled for Wednesday night.

In what appeared to be part of an IDF response to the renewed rocket fire, the IAF bombed an Islamic Jihad rocket cell in Gaza City. Palestinians reported one dead and several wounded.

Later in the day, two more terrorists were killed in air strikes against rocket cells.

Palestinian news agency Ma’an said the first man killed was Ismail al-Asmar, a field commander in the Al-Quds Brigade, the Islamic Jihad’s “military wing.” A spokesman for a medical service run by Hamas said two other people were wounded in the strike.

“Israel will pay a heavy price for this crime,” the Al-Quds Brigade said in a statement.

Defense officials said that the IDF would continue to strike at terror cells that it spotted preparing to fire rockets into Israel, and against terrorists who it knew, according to intelligence information, were in the midst of planning attacks against Israel, as it did on Wednesday morning.

“This could lead to another escalation in rocket fire, but the IDF will not stand by as Israelis are attacked,” one official said.

Also Wednesday, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz instituted new defensive measures along the border with Egypt on Wednesday, out of fear indicating that Palestinians were planning more attacks.

Gantz’s orders went into effect in the afternoon and included a stronger emphasis on the collection of intelligence by the IDF in the Gaza Strip and Sinai in an effort to locate and track terrorists who may be planning attacks against Israel.

The IDF has maintained a high level of alert along the border since last Thursday’s attacks, when a number of gunmen affiliated with the Popular Resistance Committees infiltrated Israel and killed eight people.

A military probe into the incident, presented earlier this week to the Egyptians by OC Planning Directorate Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel, discovered that three Egyptians, including an escaped convict, had participated in the attack alongside PRC operatives from the Gaza Strip.

The results of the investigation were presented to the Egyptians to prove the IDF did not intentionally shoot at Egyptian policemen who were killed in the crossfire between Israeli soldiers and terrorists on the Egyptian side of the border.

Eshel played audio tapes for the Egyptians in which OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Tal Russo is heard warning soldiers and attack helicopters to be careful not to hit the Egyptian policemen.

Gantz’s decisions regarding the border also pertained to the operational doctrine of the Navy Command Center in Eilat, which is responsible for protecting the South from threats originating in the Red Sea.

“These are important changes that come in response to the serious threat that Israel faces today from the Sinai Peninsula,” a military source said.

The IDF said Gantz was also looking into ways to complete the construction of another 100 km. of fence along the Sinai border by the end of the year.

Since construction began in late 2010, the Defense Ministry has completed the construction of 30 km.

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