Thursday, January 03, 2008

Katyusha Hits Askelon, Kassams Continue to Rain

From THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 3, 2008, by staff, Gil Hoffman and AP:

... IAF warplanes bombarded targets across the Gaza Strip, stepping up pressure on Palestinian terrorists after a Katyusha rocket was fired into Israel.

....The 122mm Grad Katyusha rocket fired from the northern Gaza Strip landed in northern Ashkelon. The rocket was launched from a distance of 16.5 kilometers and was the first projectile fired from the Strip to land so far north. It landed in an open area and did not cause any casualties or damage.

Meanwhile...three Kassam rockets fired from Gaza landed in [Sderot]. One of the rockets landed near a residential building, smashing its windows.

Five more Kassam rockets landed in open areas in the western Negev and 14 mortar shells fired from southern Gaza landed in fields near the Israeli border...

Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for the Katyusha attack. "We are going to launch more strikes in the depth of the entity," they said in a joint statement. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, a tiny group backed by Hamas, also claimed responsibility.

Israeli officials said the attack signaled an improved capability by Gaza terrorists.
"The Palestinians have attacked a major Israeli city ... and thus have upped the ante," said government spokesman David Baker...

...In published comments Thursday, Bush said he would not let a future Palestinian state become a base for attacks on Israel. "I won't lend a hand to the establishment of a terror state on the borders of Israel," Bush told Yediot Ahronot.

Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu responded to the day's events by saying that the policies of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were "amateurish, blind and dangerous" and had already brought the residents of the Galilee and Haifa under Katyusha fire. He warned that the same would happen soon to Ashdod and eventually, Tel Aviv, if the government was not replaced by one led by him.

"They believe Israel needs to withdraw to the 1967 borders, but it is clear to you that if we leave Judea and Samaria, Hamas will take control there," Netanyahu told a meeting of the Likud secretariat at the party's Tel Aviv headquarters. The opposition leader added that pulling back to the 1967 lines "will mean that if terrorists fire a missile with a 20-kilometer range at the center of the country, it will hit Dizengoff Center."

Meanwhile, during his farewell speech, outgoing OC Home Front Command Maj.-Gen. Yitzhak Gershon said that the IDF was making "exceptional and ongoing efforts" to battle Kassam attacks, but has not been able to provide an effective response to the threat. "Israeli communities in the Gaza belt have been under non-stop Kassam attacks" which "prevent an entire strip of land from conducting normal lives," he said.

Thursday's fighting in Gaza was some of the heaviest in months. The IDF said the target of the air strikes were buildings used by Palestinian terrorists, including one weapons storehouse.The attacks were in response to the Katyusha attack on Ashkelon, the army confirmed...

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