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Rockets Strike IDF Army Base Near Ashkelon, Five Wounded

For the second time in a week, Kassam rockets fired from Gaza have struck an IDF base near the city of Ashkelon – this time wounding five soldiers.
By Ezra HaLevi
First Publish: 12/22/2005, 12:51 PM / Last Update: 12/22/2005, 10:18 AM

Two rockets landed on the Zikim army base just south of Ashkelon late Thursday morning. They struck near the base’s mess hall, which was filled with officers at the time.

Five soldiers were wounded by shrapnel or treated for shock in the Zikkim attack, including battalion commander Lt.-Col. Yossi Drori.

Another rocket fell near the Ashkelon industrial zone, where one of Israel’s largest power plants is located. Earlier this week a rocket hit the power plant but failed to cause any damage. Rockets also struck a different IDF base in the region earlier this week. Soldiers sleeping in tents nearby escaped unharmed; they have demanded the army provide them with fortified barracks.

IDF forces and helicopters quickly moved toward northern Gaza and fired artillery toward the launching sites to respond to Thursday's attack, killing one Arab.

Chief IDF Engineering Corps Officer Shimon Daniel, who commands the base hit by the rocket, was informed of the attack while attending a meeting of the Home Front command dealing with the reinforcement of army barracks in the region. “I am sure that the soldiers will receive proper protection,” Daniel told Army Radio. “The IDF knows how to give the best protection there is.”

On August 15th, on the eve of the implementation of the Gaza withdrawal, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon appeared on television and told the nation: “We will hold out our hand with an olive branch, but we will respond to attacks [after the Disengagement] in an unprecedented manner.”

In the months preceding the expulsion, both Deputy PM Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Sha’ul Mofaz touted Israel’s ability to respond harshly to attacks following the withdrawal as arguments for the implementation of the expulsion.

Military sources were quoted following Thursday’s attack saying, “There is no magic solution to eliminate Kassam fire.”

“We are not looking for magic, but merely security!” responded former IDF Southern District Commander Brig.-Gen. (res.) Tzvi Fogel on Israel Radio. “We must declare that whoever approaches these known launching sites will be shot. They will say that it prevents Gaza residents from going to work in the fields, but if given a choice between enabling the residents of Gaza or the residents of Ashkelon to go to work – the State of Israel must choose Ashkelon… Why can’t the IDF display the kind of determination it used in the Disengagement in its efforts to stop the rockets?”

Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) issued a statement in response to this week's earlier attacks demanding that the IDF bomb Gaza, even if it means forcing residents to flee to Sinai.