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PALESTINIAN ROCKETING OF ASHKELON

Qassam Rockets From Gaza Strip Wound Five IDF Soldiers Near Ashkelon

Sharon Faces Greater Pressure To Take Decisive Action

Question: 'If Terrorists Are Trying To Hit Ashkelon Power Station Why Not Pull The Plug On Electricity Supply To Gaza Strip?'

Ashkelon

The Palestinian rocketing of the Israeli town of Ashkelon continues without let-up. This time, five IDF soldiers have been wounded. The Qassam rockets are being launched from the Gaza Strip that Israel voluntarily evacuated last summer and from some of the former settlements that are within eyesight of the Ashkelon power plant. Actually, the power station supplies electricity to the Palestinians in Gaza. But not only the power plant and fuel depot in Ashkelon are at risk, the rockets could also hit an Israeli school or kindergarten. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has been ordered to rest after his mild stroke but he is obviously going to have to take some hard decisions

:: IsraCast Audio ::

Israel considers more drastic action as Palestinian terrorists launch more Qassam rockets from the Gaza Strip wounding five IDF soldiers near Ashkelon.

Qassam Rocket

One of the Qassam rockets came racing in to blow up near the five soldiers. Three were lightly wounded by the flying shrapnel, two others suffered from shock. The troops were guarding the new border after Israel carried out its voluntary evacuation from Gaza last summer. The irony is the terrorists are exploiting the two Israeli settlements of Dugit and Nissanit as launch sites because of their proximity to Ashkelon, located a few miles away. Israeli gunners fired back. However, the terrorists were probably long-gone as they use delayed action launch fuses.It was the second Qasam attack of the morning on Ashkelon in what has become a daily occurrence.

The port of Ashkelon on the Mediterranean coast is one of the most strategic targets in the Jewish state. It has a big fuel depot - the inferno near London recently illustrated the danger of rockets slamming into huge fuel tanks. Moreover, a major power station also dominates the skyline from the Gaza Strip.The Qassam rockets are produced in secret workshops in Gaza that are powered by none other than the nearby Israeli plant in Ashkelon. There is a mounting feeling in Israel that enough is enough! If the terrorists are launching rockets at the Israeli power plant then Israel should pull the plug.

The Qassams, with a range of some ten miles, are highly inaccurate and could just as easily hit a school or kindergarten in Ashkelon. However, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and his security force of some 30,000 armed personnel are not lifting a finger to halt the rocketing. Sharon seems to be showing great restraint in order not to harm election prospects for Abbas in his match-up with Hamas at the ballot box.

What's to be done? Israel has relied on artillery and air strikes to contain the rocketing from Gaza, but so far to no avail. After carrying out the withdrawal on the ground, Sharon is apparently loath to send in ground forces again. This could prove that his critics were right. One possibility is to declare Israeli free fire zones in the Gaza area that is within Qassam range of Ashkelon. But this could lead to innocent Palestinians being killed or wounded by Israeli fire. The Israeli shelling and air strikes have been careful not to hit Palestinian civilians who take to the streets cheering the Qassams. On this score, cutting the supply of Israeli electricity to the Gaza Strip would be a serious but non-lethal sanction.

Of course, Mahmoud Abbas is not the only one in the midst of a crucial election campaign. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's coping with the terrorism has also become an issue. Moti Morel, campaign director for Labor's Amir Peretz has warned that Sharon might jeopardize the national interest by adopting tough tactics against terrorism to gain votes. But in light of the Palestinian provocation at Ashkelon, the contrary may be true. The mayor of Ashkelon says he cannot understand why the IDF has not been ordered to put a stop to the indiscriminate rocketing of his town. In fact, the new Likud leader Bibi Netanyahu had predicted that the Israeli 'retreat' from Gaza would lead to the rocketing of Ashkelon. After five Israeli soldiers were wounded today, there will be greater pressure on the Prime Minister to act more decisively. Although, his doctors have ordered Sharon to take it easy after his mild stroke, he will now have to make some hard choices about the repeated Palestinian rocketing of Ashkelon.

David Essing

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