Military: Israeli airstrike takes out underground launcher in Gaza

Oct. 28, 2013 at 9:22 AM
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JERUSALEM, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- The Israeli military, responding rocket attacks from Gaza, launched airstrikes and hit two underground rocket launchers Monday, military officials said.

Palestinian sources told The Jerusalem Post the airstrike targeted a site belonging to Hamas' Kassam Brigades terrorist group.

No injuries were reported.

"The [Israeli army] will not tolerate any attempt to harm the citizens of the state of Israel or its soldiers and will continue to operate against any element that uses terror against the state of Israel," a military spokesman said in a statement.

The Israeli military said it holds the Hamas leaders in Gaza responsible for the rocket fire, Haaretz said.

"The Hamas terrorist organization ... holds responsibility," the spokesperson said.

Earlier Monday, the Iron Dome defense system intercepted a Palestinian rocket fired from Gaza toward the Ashkelon, Israeli military officials said.

Another Palestinian rocket fell into an uninhabited area in the Ashkelon Coast Regional Council area, an army spokeswoman added.

No injuries were reported.

Two mortar shells fired from Gaza Sunday landed in southern Israel, coinciding with the announcement that 26 Palestinian prisoners would be released by Israel Tuesday, the Post said.

Busloads of protesters from across Israel were traveling Monday to Ofer Prison, north of Jerusalem, to demonstrate against the release of the Palestinian prisoners, Israeli broadcaster Arutz Sheva reported. The protest is scheduled for Tuesday, the day of the prisoners' release.

Arutz Sheva said relatives of terror victims, and members of the Knesset and other public figures were expected to participate.

Organizers said the protesters would form a human chain outside the gates to the jail and demand that the prisoner release be halted. They also would hold posters with images of bloody hands and photos of victims.

Among the prisoners to be release is Amer Massoud Issa Rajib, convicted in the hacking death of an Israeli seeking to build ties with Palestinians in Gaza, Israeli newspapers said.

Rajib also was convicted of kidnapping and murdering three Palestinians he suspected of collaborating with Israel, and assaulting three Palestinians who he said carried out "moral crimes," the European Jewish Press reported.

The prisoners to be released are among 104 Palestinians the Israeli Cabinet agreed in July to release in four phases to comply with a key Palestinian Authority demand to renew peace talks.

Israel released the first group of 26 in August.

The families of the prisoners' victims were notified of the men's release before the list was published. Opponents were given 48 hours to petition the Israeli Supreme Court against the release.

If the court rejects the petitions, as it did in August, the prisoners are expected to be released Tuesday, Israeli newspapers said.

Earlier Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislative Affairs rejected a bill that would have blocked the prisoners' release.

A ministerial committee headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu approved the prisoner list, the Post said

"We have to honor government decisions even if it is difficult and unpleasant. We can't constantly change our stance," Netanyahu told the ministers Sunday.

"We want to reach an accord with the Palestinians, primarily to ensure [Israel's] security," he said.

A senior Israeli official told Haaretz last week Israel planned to announce new West Bank settlements the same day it releases the prisoners.

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