Two Israeli soldiers killed, 6 injured in heavy battles in Gaza. Palestinians report some 50 dead

The Israeli fatalities are identified as 1st Sgt. Doron Asulin, 20 from Beersheba and 1st Sgt. Eran Dan Gur, 20, from Jerusalem.
debkafile‘s military sources report: Israel’s Givati Brigade troops engaged in heavy fighting with Hamas armed forces in the northern Gaza Strip’s Sejaya and Jebalya areas Saturday March 1 in the IDF’s first extended challenge to Hamas’ protracted missile and rocket offensive on Ashkelon and Sderot regions. Tanks, self-propelled guns, F-16 fighter jets and helicopters took part in the combat. Two Israeli soldiers were killed by Palestinian fire, six injured. The Palestinians reported some 50 dead – 20 in battle, the rest civilians, including 5 children, as well as 120 injured.
A Palestinian truck loaded with 160 missiles, rockets and mortar shells was blown up in Jebalya by an Israeli air strike Saturday night. A large store of war materiel, including missiles was struck earlier.
Throughout the battles, the Palestinians continued firing scores of missiles and rockets – more than 50 by evening. Three waves of extended Katyusha rockets hit Ashkelon, under attack for the third day running. One set the shopping center on fire after two crashed into houses, injuring 6 people, two of them children. There were dozens of shock victims.
After the Red Color code alert was installed, furious Ashkelonites said they will never let their town become Sderot No. 2, a much smaller Israeli town whose population has dwindled under years of missile attacks from Gaza. Leaders of Ashkelon’s 120,000 inhabitants are demanding tough Israeli military action against Gaza to nip its expanded rocket aggression in the bud. More sirens were installed in Ashkelon Saturday, public bomb shelters opened and Magen David emergency services reinforced with extra ambulances and medical teams.
Sderot and its kibbutz and moshav neighbors sustained 50 Qassam missiles. One exploded harmlessly in an empty nursery school. Six shock victims were hospitalized.
A Grad rocket reached Kfar Silver which is situated between Ashkelon and the big port town of Ashdod to the north. This town, 27 km north of Gaza, and just within range of the larger and more powerful Palestinian rockets, is preparing for attacks to start. Twelve alert systems are ready. debkafile‘s military sources report that the 120mm Grad, which is based on the Soviet Katyusha artillery rocket, has a maximum range of 30 km and packs 15-20 kg. of explosives.
The education minister is drawing up plans to evacuate children from towns and villages in direct line of fire from Gaza.
The IDF’s Homeland Command has installed Red Color code alerts in 8 locations around Ashkelon: Kfar Silver, Berachiya, Bat Hadar, Beit Shikma, Mavki’im, Talmei Yosef, Gaya and Mishan.

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