Chinese rockets, apparently supplied by Iran, hit Israel in first such attack since Hamas war

Thursday, February 24, 2011   E-Mail this story   Free Headline Alerts

TEL AVIV For the first time in more than two years, Israel has come under long-range rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

Israeli military sources said Palestinian gunners aligned with Iran fired at least two Chinese-modified BM-21 Grad rockets into Israel on Feb. 23. They said the rockets, believed supplied by Iran, slammed into the southern city of Beersheba, about 45 kilometers from the Gaza Strip.

"The Israeli military was not surprised by the fire," Col. Eitan Yitzhak, commander of Home Front Command in the south, said.

One of the rockets was said to have struck a home in Beersheba. The family in the house was not injured after a military warning of an impending Palestinian attack.

The rocket attack on Beersheba was the first since the Israel-Hamas war in December 2008. During the war, Hamas fired scores of Chinese-modified Grads with a range of at least 45 kilometers.

Palestinian gunners also fired mortars and rockets toward several southern Israeli communities. There were no reports of serious injuries.

The sources said the military expected additional rocket strikes from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. They said military intelligence has assessed that Iran and Syria were believed working with their proxies to escalate tension along Israel's borders to divert from the Arab revolt in the Middle East.

Hamas is said to have deployed Iranian rockets with a range of up to 80 kilometers. This includes the Fajr-5, capable of striking Tel Aviv from the Gaza Strip.

Israeli aircraft responded with missile attacks on the suspected gunners in the northern Gaza Strip. Sources said the Palestinian rocket squad was believed to have been composed of members of the Iranian-sponsored Islamic Jihad. In all, at least 11 Palestinians were reported injured.

"The Israel Defense Forces holds the Hamas terrorist organization solely responsible for maintaining the calm in the Gaza Strip and for any terrorist activity emanating from it," an Israeli military statement said.

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