From Debkafile, August 22, 2007, 9:22 AM (GMT+02:00) [emphasis added - SL] ...
In the first half of the week, at least 16 Palestinians were killed by Israel military responses to the waves of Palestinian missile and mortar fire buffeting the population living around Gaza. Hamas, Jihad Islami, Fatah-Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Popular Committees and al Qaeda-linked Salafi groups are all shooting missiles and mortars at Israeli communities around the clock – two dozen in the last 24 hours. An empty nursery school and factory were badly damaged in Sderot. The IDF has brought into action new surveillance instruments and short-range high-precision surface rockets.
Tuesday night, Aug. 21, one Hamas terrorist was killed, and several injured as they crept up to the border fence. During the day, 9 Palestinians were killed, including two children standing by a launcher near Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, who were mistaken for a missile team.
Palestinian organizations are now fielding their Qassam missile and mortar teams day and night. Marksmen armed with sniper rifles fitted with night-vision equipment are shooting at IDF border positions, armored patrols and civilian traffic within range of the border. Israeli farmers have been ordered by the military to work their fields only up to one kilometer short of the border.
Yet Israeli forces are not permitted to execute their plan to carve out a 1.5-2 km buffer strip inside the Gaza Strip to keep Palestinian assailants at bay, although prime minister Ehud Olmert and defense minister Ehud Barak have promised that the Israel military will not pull its punches against the enemy.
A senior officer in command of the sector complained that without this buffer, Palestinians hold the initiative of when, where and on what scale to wage war. “We are only allowed to shoot when they are near the border fence. It is therefore inevitable that the Palestinians will intensify their attacks, extend their range and start building up casualties on our side.”
Military commanders told DEBKAfile Tuesday night that there is nothing to deter the Palestinians from bringing out their advanced anti-tank rockets and extended-range Qassam surface missiles against the towns of Ashkelon and Netivot, as well as the cluster of military facilities guarding the Israel-Gazan border. They also believe that not all the tunnels running under the fence from Gaza into Israel have been found and the Palestinians intend to use them for surprise attacks.
DEBKAfile’s Palestinian sources explain that local Hamas extremists have intensified their offensive...in order to break out of the military, economic and financial blockade clamped down on their rule by the US, Israel, Egypt and the Europeans. This stranglehold prevents Hamas from exercising government and its rule is in danger. To save themselves, Hamas’ military chiefs are driving their war with Israel to extremes. They hope for enough civilian deaths to force outside intervention for a ceasefire in hostilities. Then, Hamas can make its acceptance contingent on the reopening of the Israel-Gaza and Egyptian border crossings under their control.