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      Ashkelon Kassam Rocket Warnings are Two Years Old

      Three Kassam rockets were fired from northern Gaza during the night... Red Dawn warning system to be changed... Experts warned that Ashkelon would be hit two years ago...
      By Hillel Fendel
      First Publish: 7/10/2006, 10:10 AM / Last Update: 7/10/2006, 12:59 PM

      One of last night's rockets landed in an open area in the western Negev, while the other two landed near Netiv HaAsarah, just north of Gaza. No one was hurt, and no damage was caused.

      The city of Sderot's Red Dawn early warning system, which features a woman's voice announcing calmly but firmly "Shachar Adom - Red Dawn" throughout the city whenever a Kassam launch is detected, will be changed. Residents of the town with children named Shachar (Dawn) said that they were particularly frightened by the sudden announcement of their name on loudspeakers, and especially as it was followed by the eery whistle of a rocket and the anticipation of its landing in an unknown but close location. The army received the complaint with understanding, and the warning will thus become "Tzeva Adom - Red Color."

      Just two years ago, before the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, IDF forces created - as they are doing now - a buffer zone in and around Beit Hanoun, in the northeast corner of the Gaza Strip, in response to the Kassam rocket bombardment of Sderot. "We will remain there for as long as necessary," then-Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz said at the time, "even, if we have to, until the Disengagement."

      Asked what would happen after the Disengagement, Mofaz said, "The IDF, GSS, Border Guard and Israel Police are sufficiently strong and clever to provide a response to terrorism even after the disengagement. I anticipate that the level of terrorism will drop after the disengagement and after pragmatic Arab forces take control."

      Two months later, then-Prime Minister Sharon said that if the Arabs of Gaza continue to rocket Israel with Kassams and mortar shells even after Israel withdraws, "we will blast them right back." Attorney-General Meni Mazuz responded that if such retaliation harms civilians, it could be considered a war crime, and might lead to very sharp international sanctions.

      Shortly afterwards, in early September 2004, President Moshe Katzav met with former IDF officers Gen. David Haguel. a former commander of the Judea/Samaria region, and Col. Gideon Altshuler, Sharon's Chief of Staff when Sharon was a general in the Yom Kippur War. The two warned him that the Disengagement would enable the terrorists to attack Israeli targets with greater ease. "Ashkelon will receive Kassam rockets just like Sderot," they said.

      A few weeks later, after another wave of Kassam rocket attacks, the army initiated Operation Days of Penitence in northern Gaza, brining heavy forces into the towns of PLO-controlled northern Gaza, including Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya. The objective: to distance the Kassam rocket launchers from Sderot.

      Throughout this period, warnings continued to be sounded that the withdrawal from Gaza could lead to attacks on Ashkelon and even Netivot. Among those who warned were Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef of Shas, former MK Michael Kleiner, and many others.

      Two Kassams were fired last week at Ashkelon, and one at Netivot.