IDF keeps up attacks on Kassam launch sites in Gaza

"Operation Blue Skies" to continue until terrorists stop firing at Israel; IDF denies missile attack on Gazan car.

cleaning artillery 88298 (photo credit: AP)
cleaning artillery 88298
(photo credit: AP)
The IDF kept up artillery and airstrike pressure on Gaza, attacking six access routes to Kassam rocket-launching sites overnight Wednesday. The army fired some 30 shells at launch sites in an effort to curb the recent series of Kassams fired towards Israel. "Operation Blue Skies" is set to continue as long as terrorists continue firing on Israel, IDF sources said Thursday morning. Soldiers will not, however, fire indiscriminately, sources added. Earlier Wednesday, Palestinian sources claimed that the IAF fired a missile at a car in northern Gaza, wounding one man. They reported two figures escaping the vehicle on foot. The IAF denied involvement in the incident, saying that the explosion was the result of mishandled explosives by terrorists. Witnesses also said that the victim was wounded while handling explosives. His condition was not immediately known. The army opened with an artillery barrage on a no-go zone carved out of the northern Gaza Strip Wednesday evening after IAF jets pounded a Palestinian terrorist base in Lebanon in the morning. The military strikes were in response to Tuesday night's Katyusha rocket attacks on towns in the North and Kassam attacks in the South. As part of Operation Blue Skies, IDF artillery batteries fired on an uninhabited area in northern Gaza used by Palestinians to launch Kassam rockets at Israeli communities. One rocket crewman was wounded by the shelling, Palestinian sources said. Palestinian groups have fired 10 home-made Kassams at Israel since Monday, an army spokeswoman said. During that time, the air force has bombed a bridge, buildings used by Fatah and 16 routes used by rocket crews to get to launch sites. The army declared that the territory from which the rocket fire originated would be a no-go zone, meaning that any Palestinian who enters there may be shot. A spokeswoman for the Israeli human rights group B'tselem has decried the indiscriminate shooting policy as one that could "lead to war crimes." On Wednesday, IDF liaison officers informed Palestinian Authority security personnel that as of 6 p.m., the military would begin operations in northern Gaza and gave the officials maps of the new no-go zone. The army also distributed leaflets to Gaza residents featuring a map of the zone and a dire warning against entering it. "For your own safety, you are warned not to enter the areas designated on the attached map starting December 28, 6 p.m., until further notice," read the leaflet. "Whoever ignores this warning is putting his life in real danger." In response, Palestinians fired a Kassam rocket, which landed within the Strip, just before the warning went into effect. Col. (res.) Yohanan Tzoreff believes that the PA was too weak and too preoccupied with the run-up to the parliamentary elections on January 25, to avert the current situation. "It has the police forces, but the authority lacks legitimacy in the eyes of the public to carry out any crackdown on the terrorists," said a former Arab affairs adviser to the now-defunct Civil Administration in Gaza. The hope is that the newly united Fatah list will win a decisive victory in the elections, even if that entails some joint rule with Hamas and the reining in of Islamic Jihad. However, the military will watch over northern Gaza until that happens. On the northern front, Israeli jets swept in low to hit a hilltop base south of Beirut belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, early Wednesday morning.