Sharon Condemns Shelling of Gush Katif; IDF Does Nothing

Over 100 mortar shells have landed in Gush Katif, a 24 hour record for those embattled communities. For most countries, that would constitute war. Sharon says he'll raise the issue with Pres. Bush.

, | updated: 23:52

Listen to the related interview on Israel National Radio

With over 100 mortar shells slamming down on Gush Katif, a record for a 24 hour period since the beginning of the Oslo War in September 2000, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon en route to a meeting with President Bush, condemned the attack.

The Prime Minister told reporters on his plane before landing in Washington, D.C. that the bombardment was a flagrant violation of the understandings reaching with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas in Sharm e-Sheik on February 8.

According to those understandings, Israel agreed to hand over Arab populated cities in Judea and Samaria to PA control in return for the PA fighting terror.

The PA reached a partial cease-fire with the various Arab terror factions fighting Israel, but that fragile truce came to an abrupt halt as mortar shells rained down on Gush Katif, resulting, miraculously, in relatively light damage to those communities.

The shelling from PA controlled areas in Gaza came in response to an incident in which the IDF shot and killed two Arab youths suspected of smuggling weapons into Gaza near Rafiah. The security situation, however, began to deteriorate before the Rafiah incident. PA terrorists wounded a resident of the village of Morag last Tuesday and fired a Kassam missile on the town of Sderot in the Negev.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has warned the PA that the mortar attacks are undermining the uneasy “truce” with the terrorists, while a senior IDF official has told INN reporter Kobi Finkler that further withdrawals from Arab populated cities in Judea and Samaria will not proceed so long as the PA refrains from seizing terrorist weapons and apprehending terrorist fugitives.

Yet despite the firing of over 100 mortar shells on Gush Katif communities, a situation that for most countries would qualify as a war, the IDF has so far failed to initiate any response to the attack.

Sharon said on his plane that he would take up the issue with President Bush.

Sharon's response and the IDF's inaction has Gush Katif residents worried and outraged.

At around 2:00 this morning, when the number of rockets was only around 35, a N'vei Dekalim man named Yigal phoned IDF Southern Commander Gen. Dan Har'el, and asked him, "What are you waiting for? Why is the IDF not taking action? Are you waiting for someone to be killed, Heaven forbid, before doing something?"

Gen. Har'el responded, "We are acting with restraint in order to stop the mortar shells." Yigal said he didn't know whether to laugh or cry, but when he pressed Gen. Har'el for further explanations, the latter said, "We are waiting for the morning; if it's not quiet, we'll respond."

Yigal said he told him, "My 7-year-old son has already experienced mortar shell shrapnel in his chest; you're playing here with human lives!... It's too bad I called you. I thought you would reassure me that there was a drone or combat helicopters in the air, or some kind of secret activities..."

Contacted this afternoon by Arutz-7, an IDF spokesperson said only, "At the moment we are not aware of any orders to respond. It is on a state level. I would suggest that you direct your questions to the Ministry of Defense or the Prime Minister's office."

Residents are frustrated at the army's lack of response. "Regardless of whether they will evacuate us or not, we have the basic right to live," one woman, Datia Yitzchaki, told IsraelNationalRadio's Tamar Yonah and Malkah Fleisher today.

But, she said, the soldiers have orders not to return fire, even though "we know from [monitoring IDF radio communications] that the terrorists were identified. The soldiers saw them preparing to shoot the rockets, and asked permission to shoot at them, and their officers said 'No, because we are abiding by the tahadiya [ceasefire].' It's a one-sided ceasefire only. It's dangerous. There's a large population of civilians - hundreds of families - and all of them are again exposed to the danger of rockets..."

Yitzchaki said that "everyone with common sense" realizes that there must be a response to terrorism, and that the alternative is "completely insane."

Local Jewish residents of N'vei Dekalim set out for the town's industrial zone - the area closest to the terrorists - shortly after 2 AM to try to respond to the attacks. IDF forces that arrived at the scene prevented them from entering the industrial zone, however.

"Last night was very hard," Yitzchaki said. "For the people who live close to the area where the shells fall, it's terrifying. You don't get used to it even after four years. This morning it took time before school buses were allowed to bring kids to school. The elementary school itself is very close to Khan Yunis [from where the shells are fired]. This situation has to stop as soon as possible."

She also discussed that which "everyone knows," that "after we evacuate the Gaza region, [the security situation] will just become much worse. Everyone says this, and everyone knows this." Mrs. Yitzchaki also described preparations being made to protest the Gaza withdrawal. The entire interview can be heard by clicking here.