Jerusalem, Israel – A salvo of eight Kassam rockets were fired yesterday morning from Gaza at the western Negev region of Israel.

One rocket landed near a kindergarten in the town of Sderot. No one was injured, though ambulance teams treated 12 children who suffered from shock.

The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack. On Friday, Fatah, chaired by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, took credit for rocket attacks on Sderot.

“The principal ran in and said there was a ‘Red Color’ siren alert,”?said Natali, a caretaker in the kindergarten. “We began to pick up the babies and before we could get to the security space, there was a huge explosion and windows broke.”

Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal accused the Israeli government of forsaking his town.

“It could be that we should decide that there are no schools in Sderot,” Moyal said. “We are not willing to be responsible for the children’s lives here. Let the government come along and decide how to solve this. Nobody, not even a mid-level official, called. They simply don’t care.”

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledged to provide “better security for the residents,” indicating he would step up the Israeli offensive against Palestinian militants.

“We will not limit ourselves in regards to targeting the rocket launchers and

those who dispatch them,” Olmert said at a news conference in Jerusalem. “The instruction given to the army is to destroy every ‘Qassam’ rocket launcher and anyone who is involved in their launching against the residents of Israel.”

Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for launching seven rockets at Sderot. Hamas, the larger Islamic group that rules Gaza, was bracing for retaliation.

“We are taking this new threat by Olmert seriously,” Hamas spokesman Taher Nunu said. “We are warning of coming massacres against the people in Gaza.”

Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Tzachi Hanegbi told the Israeli Army Radio that the moment was nearing in which the IDF would have to enter the Gaza Strip: “At some stage, decided by Israel, there will be no choice but to wage a serious military campaign in Gaza.”

Meanwhile, the Sderot Parents Association plans to carry out a series of demonstrations in Jerusalem over the next few days to demand that the government of Israel act vigorously in Gaza.

‘Tears of Pride’

The Israeli army saluted its heroes last night: 38 recipients of the medal of valor received a symbol of appreciation for the extraordinary courage they displayed in the Second Lebanon War.

One after the other, the emcees read the stories of heroism for which the combatants received their medal. Each story was astounding and moving.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said in his speech: “The IDF has been blessed with soldiers and commanders with extraordinary loyalty, love of the homeland and love of their fellow man. This generation is no less good. Those who thought this generation had fallen should look at this auditorium tonight. You and your heroism tell the draft-dodgers: ‘Hang your head in shame.'”

The medal designed for the soldiers was shown for the first time during the ceremony: blue and white like the state flag, green as the color of the olive, orange to mark the home front’s contribution in the war and red, as the blood of those who fell. “These medals are made of tears,” the chief of staff said, “the tears of pride and tears of pain.”

Supporting Kidnapped Soldiers

The families of the kidnapped soldiers continue to level harsh criticism at the government. Approximately a week ago it was Noam Shalit who attacked the government on his son Gilad’s birthday. Yesterday it was Miki, the mother of Ehud Goldwasser, during a tour for the kidnapped soldiers.

“Woe to us that our children’s fate is in the hands of the government. Woe to us that we hand over our fate to a group of people who do what is good in their own eyes,” Goldwasser said. “They build an atomic shelter at public expense, but they have no money to protect the inhabitants of Sderot, and they found no money to put a camera at the Lebanese border.”

Suicide Attack By Teenage Boy Avoided

IDF soldiers in the Gaza Strip region succeeded last week in preventing a terror attack that was to have been perpetrated by a boy of approximately 15.

At the last moment, Golani Brigade troops in the Gaza Strip succeeded in neutralizing a Palestinian boy who was carrying two concealed bombs on his body that were evidently intended against them.

After having receiving early warnings about the attempt to harm them, the soldiers were prepared and overpowered the boy. Two bombs that were evidently meant for use in a suicide attack against the troops were found on his person.

“We regret that in this case, as in many others in the past and recently, the terrorist organizations are using children and young people for terrorist goals,” IDF officials said following the incident.

The boy was taken for interrogation by the security forces.

Archaeologists: Muslim Dig Damaged Temple Wall

A month-old dig conducted by Arabs to replace faulty electrical cables on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount has damaged an ancient wall that is likely a remnant of the Second Temple, Israeli archaeologists said Thursday. The work, which is being carried out with the approval of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the state-run Antiquities Authority, has been repeatedly condemned by secular independent Israeli archaeologists, who are calling for its immediate halt.

“The Israeli government is lending a hand to the destruction of one of the most important archaeological sites in the world,” said Bar-Ilan University archaeologist Dr. Gabriel Barkai at a Jerusalem press conference. Barkai said the dig, which involves tractors and other heavy construction equipment, has created a 500-ft.-long and two-ft.-deep trench on the site, destroying layers of ancient remains.

Among the antiquities that have been damaged is a wall that apparently dates back to Second-Temple times and was likely part of the Temple courts, according to Israeli archaeologists from the nonpartisan Committee Against the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount. “This is the first time in the history of archaeological excavation in Israel that we have remains that could have been part of the courts of the Temple itself,” Barkai said.

He added that it was unfathomable that Israel’s top archaeological body was turning a blind eye to archaeological destruction at Judaism’s holiest site. “All civilized people should stand up and protest this barbaric act,” he said. The committee, which plans to appeal to the High Court of Justice next week to stop the dig, noted that the work was also being carried out at night, when proper archaeological inspection was impossible. Israel Antiquities Authority spokeswoman Dalit Menzin declined comment.

Islamic officials have said the trench was necessary to replace decades-old electrical cables and have denied any antiquities have been damaged. The Israeli archaeologists said the Antiquities Authority has refused to discuss the issue with them, while both Prime Minister Olmert and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter have turned down requests for a meeting. The Israel Antiquities Authority’s Jerusalem regional archaeologist Jon Seligman was at the site on Thursday, eyewitnesses said. Seligman has long been accused by members of the committee, which was established seven years ago following massive destruction on the Temple Mount by Islamic officials, of failing to protest the damage done in the late ’90s at an underground compound of the Temple Mount known as Solomon’s Stables.

Hebrew University archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar said that the Temple Mount had become “one big construction site” and blasted the government for authorizing “rampant barbarism and vandalism” there. According to decades-old regulations, Israel maintains overall security control at the site, while the Wakf, the Islamic authority, is charged with its day-to-day administration. Wakf director Azzam Khatib said that the work followed an electrical shortage in Al-Aksa Mosque and denied that any antiquities were being damaged.

The Islamic infrastructure work comes just months after an Israeli excavation was begun outside the Temple Mount compound in order to build a new bridge to the Mughrabi Gate led to low-level Arab violence and was terminated.

The Mubarak Mystery

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has not appeared in public for the past two weeks. He has disappeared from the television screens and is absent from public events, and the media in Egypt have been preoccupied in the past days with the mystery of his situation. Israel is also following the developments with concern, and Israeli officials fear that the destabilization of the regime in Egypt could lead to an upheaval that would bring extremist Islam to power in the neighboring country.

The newspapers in Egypt have been occupied in the past two days with Mubarak’s unexplained absence from a meeting with students in the Abu Kir suburb of Alexandria, which he has attended faithfully in recent years. The rumors of his deteriorating situation were compounded by footage broadcasted on television from a visit he held this week at a communications and computer center in western Cairo: The journalists said that the footage submitted for broadcast was old.

These bits of information were enough to generate speculation, mainly in the opposition press, regarding the disappearance of the Egyptian president, who celebrated his 78th birthday this year.

Senior officials in the Egyptian ruling party denied that any sudden change had taken place in Mubarak’s health and said that the president was healthy and functioning as usual. “The president was seen on television last week,” said Dr. Mohammed Kemal, a senior party member, “and showed no sign of exhaustion.”

Senior political sources in Israel last night refused to comment on the reports and speculations regarding possible damage to Mubarak’s functioning, but the reports have undoubtedly reawakened the fear of a transfer of power or other extreme changes in the agenda of the current regime in Egypt.

“The current Egyptian administration is taking insufficient action against the Muslim Brotherhood and against manifestations of extremism in general,” says a high-ranking political source. “Any shock that destabilizes the current regime could lead to establishing an extreme Sunni Islamic state, which would behave in a way and with an agenda very similar to that of extremist Shiite Islam in Iran.”

In the last cabinet meeting, Israel’s General Security Services director said that the level of Egyptian activity against the arms smuggling industry into the Gaza Strip has recently decreased. A weakening of the current regime in Egypt may lead to the further erosion in the Egypt’s’ motivation to curb Hamas’ buildup in the territories.

“From an intelligence standpoint, the Israeli assessment is that as long as Mubarak and the members of the current administration continue to serve, the existing strategic balance in the Middle East will continue,” said a high-ranking Israeli source. “Shocks in the form of Mubarak’s departure are dangerous to Israel on many levels.”

What is Israel’s greatest fear? Mubarak’s son.

Last August, [i]The Bulletin[/i] reported that Gamal Mubarak, the son and possible heir to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, led a 70-strong delegation of cabinet ministers, politicians, trade unionists and actors to Beirut in order to show solidarity with the terrorist party Hezbollah while it was shelling northern Israel.

In November, [i]The Bulletin[/i] reported that Gamal Mubarak has been garnering support for Egyptian nuclear weaponry technology.

©The Bulletin 2007

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.