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Rocket explodes near Israeli kindergarten

JERUSALEM, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- A Qassam rocket exploded near a kibbutz kindergarten in the Ashkelon Coastal regional council Tuesday morning, the Israeli army said.

A 14-year-old girl was injured in the leg by glass shards and a young boy and several others were treated for shock, the army said.

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The attack occurred as parents brought their children to the kindergarten and hours after Israeli planes bombed seven terror targets in the Gaza Strip in response to 10 mortar shells fired at southern Israel Monday.

Since Sunday 14 mortar shells have been fired from Gaza at southern Israel, the army said.

The al-Qaida affiliated Army of Islam in the Gaza Strip claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, Ynetnews.com said.

Kindergarten teacher Ronit Gil said she was parking her car when the rocket exploded.

"I raced to the kindergarten and gathered the children and let them draw," she told Maariv.

Gil said the kindergarten is in a bomb shelter and therefore there was no reason to evacuate the children, Ynetnews.com said.

"Once again we are confronted with a routine familiar to us for many years. This week there were a number of attacks that failed to hit the kibbutz. This time it exploded near the children's kindergarten located in the residential area of the kibbutz and damaged property and caused injuries. We hope the government will know how to respond," Tal Mor, the kibbutz community coordinator, told the Hebrew language daily.

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Early Tuesday the air force hit smuggling tunnels, weapons manufacturing plants and sites of terrorist activities in northern and southern Gaza, the army said.

Two Palestinian gunmen affiliated with the Hamas military wing Izzadin-al-Qassam were injured, one critically, the daily reported.

A statement released by the army said it holds Hamas responsible for maintaining the calm and will not permit attempts to harm Israeli citizens.

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