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GAZA BOILS OVER

IDF Chief OF Staff Ya’alon: ‘Current Operation To Continue Until No Qassam Rockets Fall On Sderot; But There Is No Quick Fix’

Defense Minister Mofaz: ‘IDF Reinforcements To Gaza To Help Distance Qassam Rockets From Israeli Border’

Finance Minister Netanyahu: ‘Sharon Will Halt Disengagement If There’s A Catastrophe Over Palestinian Terrorism Or A Jewish Civil War’

Israeli Victims

The Gaza Strip has exploded into a major flare-up after Palestinian attacks murdered five Israelis within twenty- four hours. The current upsurge in bloodshed started when several of the Qassam rockets slammed into the town of Sderot inside Israel killing two small children, a two-year-old toddler and a four year old. Two IDF soldiers and a kindergarten teacher out for an early morning walk, were next in line. The IDF has hit back hard and the security cabinet ordered the IDF to go all out to finally halt the attacks. More than thirty Palestinians have been killed. Meanwhile, Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Sharon’s main rival in the Likud, says the Prime minister may halt the Gaza withdrawal ‘if there is a catastrophe’.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

The Gaza Strip violence, long on the back burner, has now boiled over. Day after day, the Palestinians have launched their home-made Qassam rockets over the border at the Israeli town of Sderot. On the eve of Succot, the rockets again took a deadly toll- the IDF is hitting back hard.

‘Enough is enough’, that was Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s message to the Security cabinet which was called into urgent session. Day after day, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have launched Qassam rockets at civilians in the town of Sderot just over the border inside Israel. The rockets are fired indiscriminately into the town with the aim of killing and wounding as many people as possible. It was only a matter of time before the missiles again murdered children, women and men. On the eve of Succot, as families were preparing to celebrate the holiday, a salvo of the rockets slammed into the town. They blew up where children were playing near a Succot booth. A two-year-old toddler, a girl and a four-year-old boy were killed outright. More children were among the thirty-five other people who were wounded.

Overnight 2 terrorists attacked an Israeli position. One IDF soldier was killed as were the gunmen in the shootout. The next morning a kindergarten teacher was out for an early morning jog near her home. Two terrorists shot her to death. A medic who rushed to the scene and tried to revive her was killed when the terrorists again opened fire. The gunmen were killed. Five Israelis had been killed in less than twenty-four hours in the Gaza Strip. Sderot is just a couple of miles form Ariel Sharon’s own farm in the Negev. The Prime Minister convened an emergency session of the security cabinet where Defense minister Shaul Mofaz presented plans for a stepped up operation against the terrorists. Cabinet minister Limor Livnat enquired if the terrorist escalation was linked to Israel’s plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. IDF Intelligence chief, General Zeevi-Farkash says yes, the terrorists want to take credit ‘for driving Israel out’. Sharon replies that is not going to happen.

The Prime Minister reportedly wanted to launch a massive operation, like Defensive Shield in the West Bank over two years ago. However, the IDF was said to have favored stepped up operations to distance the Qassam launch sites from the Israeli border. The Qassam rockets have a range of about ten kilometers, that’s about six miles.

Defense Minister Mofaz says the IDF reinforcements will be sent in to expand the operation and drive the gunmen out of Qassam range from Sderot.

IDF reinforcements have been sent to the Gaza Strip and are hitting back hard. At least six terror attacks were foiled in the following 24 hour period and the IDF continues to close in on terrorist areas killing a number of the gunmen.

IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon declares the current operation will continue until no more Qassams fall on Sderot’. At the same time he warned there was no quick fix. The launching of the Qassam rockets has vexed the IDF for some time now. Although primitive and assembled in local workshops, the Qassams have proven they can be deadly if they manage to blow up in a town like Sderot. The terrorists often launch them with timing devices so they can get away before the rockets blast off. The launch sites are also from among populated Palestinian areas or under the cover of dense underbrush.

Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Amit Shabi)

The current escalation comes against the backdrop of Sharon’s plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip by the end of next year. Finance Minister Bibi Netanyahu who is not enthusiastic about it now states: ‘I believe if there is a catastrophe, Sharon will halt the disengagement.’ Netanyahu says that’s what he would do, if he were Prime Minister. Interviewed by the Yediot Ahronot newspaper, Netanyahu said a ‘catastrophe’ could come from two directions - Palestinian terrorism or an Israeli civil war. In order to halt the retreat, he also proposed carrying it out gradually. Netanyahu would not have initiated the disengagement because it could be viewed as running away and if done unilaterally you get nothing in return.Nevertheless, the Finance Minister says he will vote in favor of the disengagement in the cabinet.

Is there a possibility that Sharon might call off the withdrawal in light of the upsurge in terrorism, who knows? Sources s close to Sharon say ‘Forget it’, the PM has argued that the pullout is in Israel’s interest. Last week, the Prime Minister indicated that he is even willing to take on Syria when it comes to halting the terrorism. There can be little, or no doubt, that Sharon views the current deterioration as a test case; he means to go all out and smash the terrorist menace from the Gaza Strip.

David Essing

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