Palestinians launch longer-range rocket into Israel

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JERUSALEM, Oct 7 (Reuters) Palestinian militants fired a Katyusha rocket deep into southern Israel today, police said, showing an ability to extend the range of rocket attacks from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Gaza militants usually fire crude rockets that have a maximum range of about 9 km into Israel, but rarely go beyond 3 km. The Grad-type Katyusha, originally Soviet-designed, landed some 11 km inside Israel.

The Katyusha slammed into an open field, causing a brush fire but no injuries, a police spokesman said.

Katyushas, widely used by Hezbollah guerrillas to strike Israel from Lebanon in a 2006 war, can reach a distance of 20 kilometres.

The Israeli military believes there are several dozen longer-range Katyushas in the hands of militant groups in the Gaza Strip, which was seized by Hamas Islamists in June.

No group claimed responsibility for today's attack.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said recently that Israel was considering a sweeping military operation in the Gaza Strip to counter almost daily rocket salvoes. Israel also has threatened to cut power it supplies to the territory unless the attacks ceased.

With a US-sponsored Middle East conference expected to be held next month, Israel has so far stuck to limited ground raids and air strikes against militants.

Last year, Gaza militants launched a rocket that flew about 12 km and reached the centre of the Israeli city of Ashkelon, causing no injuries.

REUTERS JK KN1947

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