Rockets target Jerusalem as Israelis brace for war

3:56 PM, Nov 16, 2012   |    comments
A Palestinian man picks up a binder from the debris after an Israeli air strike on the building of Hamas' Ministry of Interior in Gaza City on Friday.
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By Michele Chabin Special for USA TODAY 

November 16. 2012 - JERUSALEM - Rockets landed outside of Jerusalem and two struck near Tel Aviv on Friday night, panicking people who have normally been outside the range of the missile attacks coming from Hamas-controlled Gaza.

Sirens wailed to warn people in the Israeli capital that a rocket strike was imminent and many people scrambled for basements, but the missiles appeared to have landed in an open area outside Jerusalem, according to the Israeli government.

A few hours earlier, two rockets were spotted headed toward Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean coast. The Israeli Defense Forces said those rockets also did not hit the city.

Hamas, a U.S.-designated terror group, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad said the strikes were improved missiles that have greater range. They were the first Hamas rockets to be targeted at Jerusalem, and the first since the 1990s to come near Tel Aviv.

Peoplein Gaza have been hurrying to find supplies in case of a wider war. Egypt's prime minister was in Gaza trying to organize a cease-fire, while thousands of members of the Muslim Brotherhood protested against Israel in Cairo.

Israel said it would honor a cease-fire while Prime Minister Hesham Kandil was in Gaza on the condition that Gaza do the same. But more missiles were fired.

Apart from the strikes toward Jerusalem, several rockets hit neighborhoods in southern Israel, injuring one woman and forcing whole communities to hide in safe rooms or shelters. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have fired about 500 rockets at Israeli towns since last weekend.

The Iron Dome missile defense system used by Israel to blow up Hamas rockets in the air intercepted rockets fired toward Ashdod in southern Israel, according to the Haaretz newspaper.

The Israeli Defense Forces targeted Hamas underground rocket-launching sites from the air overnight and into early Friday. One missile struck the Hamas Interior Ministry, according to Israeli news media reports.

"We are kind of reluctant warriors. We don't want to get into Gaza if we don't have to," Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Friday. "If we will see in the next 24 to 36 hours more rockets launched at us, I think that would be the trigger."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said a ground offensive will be launched against Hamas if the rockets do not stop. Israel conducted just such an offensive in the winter of 2008 when Hamas unleashed a barrage of rockets.

On Friday night, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved an expansion of the draft of reserve soldiers to more than 75,000 army reservists if needed, according to Israel Channel 2. Trucks and tanks have been massing toward the border.

Israel began calling up as many as 30,000 reservists Thursday. Such call-ups are not done often, due to the disruptions they cause and the expense of mobilizing a civilian army. Many reservists received the order 6 a.m. Friday and, within hours, were on their way to Israel's border with Gaza in the south.

Israeli police reported that Palestinians who live in Jerusalem held a large pro-Gaza protest outside the walls of the Old City. Police arrested several protesters.

Hours before the Jewish Sabbath was set to begin, religious Israelis used social media to call on Jews around the world to recite Psalms on behalf of the country's soldiers. Rabbis said Jews in bomb shelters should not light Sabbath candles.

At a Jerusalem elementary school commandeered by the military to process the called-up reservists, religious and non-religious civilians filled out paperwork and waited for the buses that would bring them to the front - less than a two-hour drive.

Netanel Kakon, 22. a yeshiva student who completed his mandatory military service a year ago, said he was willing to don a uniform "because there are people sitting right now in bomb shelters."

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