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Ashkelon Rocket Attack Prompts Increased Concerns

The Tuesday evening rocket attack into the heart of Ashkelon has sparked increased concerns among senior ministers and military commanders.
By Yechiel Spira
First Publish: 7/5/2006, 7:53 AM / Last Update: 7/5/2006, 6:59 AM

In actuality, residents of Ashkelon told members of the press that they are not at all surprised, admitting however they did not believe the rocket attack would come so soon, expecting it would take terrorists additional time to reach the city which is home to 120,000 residents.

The improved rocket, officials report, was equipped with a second engine, giving it the boost to hit the target inside pre-1967 Green Line Israel, landing close to ten kilometers (6 miles) from Beit Hanoun, a northern Gaza village used to fire at western Negev Jewish communities. According to military officials, the rocket which landed in the parking lot of the ORT Ronson School actually can travel up to 12 kilometers (7.2 miles). Officials are also well-aware that terrorists are working in earnest to increase the striking range of the rockets. Until Tuesday’s attack, Kassam rockets only reached the perimeter of the Ashkelon's southern industrial park.

The Political/Security Cabinet will be convening on Wednesday morning to discuss the latest development, which comes amidst Operation Summer Rains, the IDF offensive in Gaza intended to halt the rocket attacks. While artillery forces pound open fields in northern Gaza used to fire the rockets, terrorists on Tuesday managed to launch a number of attacks, all ending without injuries.

The Ashkelon attack prompted a wave of statements to the media from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and other members of the cabinet, as well as senior military commanders, all threatening a “harsh response” to the unprecedented escalation in terrorist warfare against an Israeli civilian population center.

In a Tuesday-morning Army Radio interview, Justice Minister Chaim Ramon who addressed the ongoing Kassam rocket attacks and the situation regarding hostage soldier Corporal Gilad Shalit, stated there is “no justification” for the ongoing Gaza-based terror against Israel, explaining Israel withdrew from Gaza and turned the entire area over to the PA.

On the other side of the political spectrum, members of the opposition continue to release statements that the increase in rocket attacks from Gaza is unfortunately proof that the doomsday prophecies of last year were correct, and the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza only serves to encourage more terrorism.

Releasing a statement on Tuesday night from the Herzliya Pituach home of US Ambassador Richard Jones, Prime Minister Olmert called the Ashkelon Kassam rocket attack a “major escalation in the war of terror” being launched against Israel by Hamas, stating the attempted strike against Israeli civilians living in sovereign Israel will have “far-reaching consequences.”