Hamas praised Tuesday's rocket attack on an Israeli army base, calling it a "victory from God."
"We consider this a victory from God for the resistance," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said on Hamas radio. "We consider the resistance as the legitimate right of the Palestinians to defend themselves and restore their rights."
The rocket strike, which wounded 69 Israel Defense Force soldiers, was followed by a mortar barrage on the Gaza border. The Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for the attacks, and the Islamic Jihad later posted a video on its Web site purportedly showing the Kassam rocket launch.
Although Hamas was not directly involved, Israel has said that it holds the group responsible for attacks out of Gaza because it rules the area.
"It doesn't matter which terror group took responsibility. Gaza is totally controlled by Hamas, and it has the ability to stop this and decided not to," Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said at a news conference. "I think we have tools to do this, tools that are not only military."
Although nobody was wounded in the mortar attack, the incident will undoubtedly add to the calls for action, which reached a fever pitch following the earlier Kassam strike. Predictions are that the IDF will still hold back from launching a large-scale operation in the Gaza Strip. According to reports, the hesitancy is in large part due to the upcoming peace summit in Washington, mounting tensions along the northern border, and the fact that Sederot remains largely unprotected.
Defense officials are, however, calling on the political echelon to allow the IDF to deepen their operations in Gaza. At present, the army is allowed to penetrate up to 2 kilometers into Palestinian territory from the security fence.
Dozens of parents of soldiers serving at the Zikim base arrived there on Thursday to demand that their children be removed from the site. Israel Radio reported a heated exchange between the parents and the commanding officers of the base.
Early last Thursday afternoon, the IDF was posting a number of portable shelters in the base, said Israel Radio.
Sixty-nine soldiers were wounded, one of them critically, three more seriously, and 10 moderately after one of two long-range rockets fired by Palestinians on Monday night landed in the IDF basic-training camp. On Tuesday morning, another rocket was fired into Israel, landing in a Sha'ar Hanegev Council community causing no casualties.
The rocket struck inside the Zikim military base, located one kilometer north of the Gaza Strip, at approximately 1:30 a.m Tuesday morning. The Kassam landed next to a tent in which a group of soldiers were sleeping. Another rocket, which landed in an open area in the western Negev, caused no casualties.
The injuries were mostly caused by shrapnel and concrete that was kicked up following the explosion. The victims include both male and female soldiers.
All of the wounded were evacuated to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, Soroka Hospital in Beersheva and Sheba Hospital in Tel Hashomer. By 6 p.m. on Tuesday, 43 of the soldiers were still hospitalized.
Thirty ambulances were alerted to the scene, south of Ashkelon, where they were accompanied by two helicopters responsible for evacuating the wounded.
Islamic Jihad and another Palestinian groups claimed responsibility for the attack. A spokesman for Islamic Jihad said that the firing of the the Quds rockets (a longer range missile than the smaller Kassam) was a response to recent IDF action in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Tuesday's Kassam attack was not the first in Zikim. In December of 2005, parents voiced protest over the level of safety of the base after it was hit by a Kassam.
Five soldiers were lightly wounded by shrapnel in that attack.