Three Israelis killed in continuing rocket assault

(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to The Israel Defense Forces kept up the pressure on terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip on Thursday as Operation Pillar of Defense entered its second day. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said that by Thursday afternoon more than 150 terrorist sites in Gaza had been struck. Meanwhile, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terror groups have continued launching rockets at civilian targets in Israel’s south, with around 150 rockets fired at Israel since Wednesday afternoon. The Iron Dome system has successfully intercepted around 50 of those rockets.

A ZAKA volunteer going through the wrecked apartment in Kiryat Malachi of the three people killed by a rocket fired by terrorists from the Gaza Strip, Nov. 15, 2012. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90/JTA)

Three Israelis—Aharon Smagda, a 40-year-old father of three, Yitzchak Amselam, 22, and Mirah Scharf Cohen, a 25-year-old pregnant mother of three—were killed when a Grad rocket scored a direct hit on a building in Kiryat Malachi. Police and IDF Homefront Command officers said they had been standing at their apartment’s window when the rocket struck, and might have survived had they obeyed instructions and sought shelter in their building’s stairwell.

The Iron Dome anti-rocket system had intercepted some 50 rockets by Thursday afternoon over major population centers including Ashdod and Beersheba. Some Grad rockets did explode in these cities, causing damage but no loss of life. A factory sustained a direct hit in Ashdod, but there were no casualties. Radio reports said a steady stream of Israelis from southern towns was moving north to escape the constant rockets, although there were no confirmed numbers.

In Gaza, 13 Palestinians—including seven terrorists and four civilians—have been killed by Israeli actions since Wednesday. Among the dead terrorists was Hamas military commander Ahmed Jabari and another senior military wing commander, as well as a three-man rocket launching squad. Among the civilian dead were a seven-year-old girl and a pregnant woman, Palestinian medical sources told the BBC.

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