Arab terrorists fired an upgraded Kassam rocket from northern Gaza Tuesday evening, hitting, for the first time, the heart of the city of Ashkelon.
The rocket fell near a school shortly after 7 PM, causing damage to the building. No one was physically hurt. IDF sources said that an initial investigation shows the rocket to have been fired from 9.5 kilometers away.
Press "Play" below to hear the late Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin ridiculing (in Hebrew) those who warned that rockets would be fired from Gaza.
"The scare-stories of the Likud are well-known," Rabin said in 1995 in the above recording. "Why, they also promised us Katyushas from Gaza. It's already a year that the Gaza Strip is mostly under the control of the Palestinian Authority - and there wasn't a Katyusha and there won't be any..."
The Hamas terrorist organization, which governs the Palestinian Authority, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called the rocket attack on Ashkelon "an unprecedented escalation."
In spontaneous reaction to the attack on their city, dozens of Israelis took to the streets in Ashkelon. Mayor Roni Mahatzri said, "We're talking about a new situation with which we're not familiar and don't want to be familiar with. A city of 120,000 residents should not be living under the firing of Kassams. I will call together the city council and we will discuss the incident."
Mahatzri later negated any talk of "reinforcing" the city, as is being implemented for schools in Sderot. "We cannot accept reinforcement as the norm," he said. "The IDF must put down the shooting there [in Gaza], not reinforce here." Mahatzri met this afternoon with IDF Home Front Commander Gen. Yitzchak Gershon.
The rocket was the seventh to be fired at Israel yesterday from Gaza. Two fell in PA territory, one in Sderot, and the others in open areas in Israel. No one was hurt.
The Ashkelon attack took place despite a heavy concentration of IDF forces stationed in and around the Gaza Strip, including the northern section. IDF Givati Brigade Commander Col. Yoel Strick said that soldiers are continuing to hit terrorists, to demolish tunnels and to uncover weapons caches in northern Gaza as part of Operation Summer Rains. Col. Strick added that the forces were able to reach any place they needed to in the Gaza Strip. He insisted, however, that "we will continue to act with the minimum of harm to uninvolved civilians."
MK Gideon Saar (Likud) said Tuesday evening, "The fact that a Kassam landed in the heart of Ashkelon, in a school, shows the complete failure of [last year's] Disengagement Plan. In contrast to the promises that the plan would bring about a better situation, one by one, all the warnings that the opponents of Disengagement issued are coming true."
MK Saar added, "In light of this, to continue with [PM Olmert's] Realignment Plan would be an abandonment of the residents of the center of the country to an artillery bombardment by terrorists from Judea and Samaria."
Speaking at the Conference for the Development of the Negev, Vice Premier Shimon Peres said, "The Palestinians are jeopardizing their future. They will not be able to maintain a state in which soldiers are being kidnapped and Kassams are being fired."