In the early morning hours, five rockets from the Gaza Strip were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. The rockets were heading in the direction of the city of Ashkelon. Three other rockets which were fired landed in open areas. No injuries or damage were reported.
Shortly after 2 a.m., warning sirens went off in Ashkelon, alerting sleeping residents to quickly find their way to bomb shelters. The recent attack is the second this week. The first attack took place this past Monday, minutes after the conclusion of the funeral of Ariel Sharon. The rockets fell in an open area near the border fence.
Footage of the Iron Dome intercepting last night’s rocket attack
In response to the rocket attack, the Israeli Air Force retaliated by conducting airstrikes against targeted areas. IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner stated on Twitter that the destroyed sites had hidden rocket launchers, a weapons manufacturing facility, and a weapons storage area. Direct hits were reported for all targets.
A second terrorist attack took place as well. Late Wednesday evening, terrorists opened fire from a moving vehicle on a resident of the Shomron (Samaria) who was driving near the Havat Gilad community. Miraculously, the resident was not hurt but the vehicle sustained heavy damage. In conjunction with this attack, terrorists near Hebron threw rocks at Israeli vehicles traveling close to the area. The vehicle sustained damage but no injuries were reported.
Terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria have increased dramatically over the last several weeks. One of the more favored methods of the Palestinian terrorists is via rock attacks which have proven to be lethal. The attacks are now becoming routine incidents. For example, this past Tuesday, Rabbi Yitzchak Cohen, whose son was murdered in the 2008 terrorist atrocity at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva, was attacked when he went to visit his son’s grave on the Mount of Olives. It was the anniversary of his son’s death.
In related news, the Shin Bet announced that in conjunction with the Israel Prison Service, a plot by Palestinian prisoners held in Israel to kidnap Israelis in the West Bank has been thwarted. Three prisoners were found to be plotting the attack with the help of members of the Holy Warriors Brigade, a Hamas affiliate.
The leader of the kidnapping ring is former Gaza resident Mahmoud Bel, 24, who has been incarcerated in the Eshel Prison since 2008. Bel recruited 21 year old Ali Harub, originally from Hebron, and 53 year old Rajab Salah Al-din, originally from Hizme. Bel is believed to have directly contacted Amar Qassem, second in command of the Holy Warriors Brigade.
After being interrogated by security forces, the three confessed to their plan. They have been charged with crimes of activity in an illegal organization, contact with a foreign agent, and conspiracy to commit a crime.
In a statement released by the Shin Bet, the thwarted plan was “the efforts of the Holy Warriors Brigade organization to extend the area of its activity to Judea and Samaria.” The Shin Bet credits the success of exposing the plan to Israel’s unique counter-terrorism and investigation efforts.