The IDF is bracing for a possible further expansion of missile fire from the
Gaza Strip, to as far as Rishon Lezion and Gedera, after two Grad-model Katyusha
rockets flew some 30 kilometers and slammed into Ashdod on Thursday for the
first time since Operation Cast Lead two years ago.
The blast from the
missiles was heard in Rishon Lezion, Rehovot and Yavne, leading some residents
to believe initially that a rocket had fallen in the vicinity of these central
locales. Palestinian terror groups in Gaza are believed to have Iranian-made
rockets, like the Fajr-5, that are capable of reaching Tel Aviv.
from the Home Front Command were in contact with the Rishon Lezion and Gedera
municipalities on Thursday, and nearby kibbutzim were also told to be on high
alert for missile attacks.
Schools in Ashdod, Ashkelon and Kiryat Gat
were ordered closed on Friday.
In total, 11 rockets were fired into Israel on
Thursday, and six mortar shells landed in the area of the Eshkol Regional
Council on Thursday night. There were no reports of injuries.
police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) are continuing their joint
investigation into Wednesday’s Jerusalem terrorist bombing – in which a British
woman, Mary Jane Gardner, 59, was murdered and over 40 people wounded – but are
keeping details of the investigation far from the public eye.
The head of
the Police Operations Branch, Cmdr. Nissim Mor, said authorities were
anticipating additional missile fire from Gaza.
“Unfortunately, in the
South, they are well experienced in handling these attacks. We are prepared for
more rocket impacts further to the north, too, and we’ve sent more patrol cars
to these areas,” Mor said.
The IDF responded to the increased rocket fire
late Thursday with a missile strike against a Hamas base in the northern Gaza
Strip, which Palestinian media claimed once served as headquarters for the
Palestinian Authority Intelligence Service but now serves as a command post for
Hamas’s armed wing, Izzadin Kassam. Some reports said the target was an
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel would continue
operating against Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror infrastructure in the Gaza
“We will not tolerate terror attacks against our citizens,” Barak
said during a joint press conference with US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
“We will continue operating and will not allow terror to lift its head once
again in this region.”
Strategic Affairs Ministry Director- General
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser said “a lot of possibilities were on the
Gates said Israel had the right to defend itself in the face of
rocket attacks against its cities, but warned that “we don’t want to do anything
that allows extremists or others to divert the narrative of reform that’s going
on in virtually all the countries of the region.”
Russian Prime Minister
Vladmir Putin condemned the recent attacks on Israeli citizens during a
face-to-face conversation he had with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who was
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Putin said he
identified with the pain Israelis were feeling. As the two leaders spoke,
Netanyahu received a phone call from US President Barack Obama, who also
condemned the attacks. “This creates a joint condemnation and a wide
international identification in the war against terror, and this strengthens us
in our joint battle,” Netanyahu said in a message sent out to the
Following the Grad attacks, Israeli officials said that Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had told the Russian leadership that if PA President
Mahmoud Abbas unified with Hamas, then “he’s burying the peace
According to the officials, the idea was raised, during the
Moscow meetings, of possible interim steps to be taken by Israel with the
Palestinian leadership that would be short of a final agreement.
while foreign leaders are urging progress, frequently telling Netanyahu that
Abbas is weak and that Hamas is breathing down his neck, the Israeli position is
that if this is the case, Abbas may be too weak to sign and implement an
Given that situation, Israel is raising the idea of “measured
and mutual steps.” But if Hamas and Fatah joined forces, officials said, even
this course would be unlikely.
Kuperwasser said Thursday that it appeared
Hamas was incapable of reining in Islamic Jihad and preventing the Gaza rocket
fire against Israel. “It is a reflection of the fact that no one speaks for the
Palestinians and no one controls the situation [in Gaza],” he said. “It does not
seem [like] there are sources inside the Gaza Strip who can bring about an end
to the situation.”
The rockets from Gaza were not a result of Israel’s
political or diplomatic situation, but were instead a reflection of the
situation in Gaza, he said.
“Gaza is a problematic area with no clear
government. We used to think that Hamas was in control. What we see in the last
few days is that they do not want to control or cannot control [the violence],”
Israel, he said, was committed to preventing the
missile fire and taking what steps it could to sway the Palestinians to stop
launching rockets. The IDF held consultations on Thursday night about possible
deployment of the counter-rocket defense system, Iron Dome, as early as next
Kuperwasser said that discussions were ongoing about what the
proper method of response should be.
“I cannot go into the details,” he
said, but “a lot of possibilities are on the table. Clearly we do not have an
interest in escalation.
We have to restore stability, and the question is
what is the best way to do that, and if it is possible [to do it] without
another Cast Lead.”