Jerusalem – The Israel Welfare Ministry and the Israeli Army Home Front Command have begun to prepare for the possibility of evacuating population centers in southern Israel if the Hamas attacks increase.

In a situation assessment meeting held in Ashkelon, with the participation of Israel Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, senior Home Front Command officials and representatives of various ministries, it was agreed that if the Kassam and Grad rocket fire on the communities around the Gaza Strip continue to increase, old-age homes and people with disabilities would be evacuated in the first stage. The Home Front Command and government ministries also have more comprehensive plans to evacuate thousands of residents from the kibbutzim and cities in the Gaza perimeter, but this would be implemented only if a very large-scale Israeli operation were launched in the Gaza Strip, which would be expected to lead to a significant increase in rocket fire in the first few days.

Barak Examines Attacking Rocket Firing Points

Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak has demanded an examination into the option of firing at any locality from which rockets are fired into Israel, even if that locality is inhabited. Mr. Barak yesterday convened a meeting on the issue, with the participation of Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, Attorney General Meni Mazuz, Judge Advocate General Brig. Gen. Avi Mandelblit, the deputy legal adviser to the Defense Ministry and Foreign Ministry officials.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday attacked the international criticism of the Israeli operation in Gaza. “The self-righteous people of the entire world preach morality to Israel. Our children cannot sleep at night, but as soon as Israel does something about it, we are subject to attacks and meetings are summoned at the United Nations.”

Israel Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, a resident of Ashkelon, demanded that Mr. Olmert and Mr. Barak order the IDF to take immediate action to halt the fire from Gaza into Israel. “Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers are not perishable goods,” Mr. Dichter said.

Organizations affiliated with the New Israel Fund are now conducting an international campaign against any further Israeli incursions into Gaza, claiming that Israel should not be allowed to bomb civilian communities – even if these communities are hosting missile launchers.

Israel Fears Hamas’ Rocket Range Will Continue To Grow

The missile threat from Hamas against Israel has become more sophisticated.

Israeli police and bomb squads are now studying the remains of rockets that landed in the western Negev in the past few days, which are quite different from the familiar Kassam and Grad rockets.

The new rocket has a higher caliber, and although it was fired to a range of only 10 miles, it is thought to be capable of a longer range. Initial examinations show that it bears an uncanny resemblance to the long-range Iranian rockets used by Hezbollah in the Second Lebanon War. A sapper who examined a rocket after it was extricated from the crater it caused said it had “a huge warhead, much bigger than anything we have known up until now.”

The Israeli security establishment fears that Hamas may acquire rockets with a range of 30 to 40 kilometers, which could be fired from deep inside Palestinian territory but could still reach Kiryat Gat and even Ashdod.

Natan Wechsler, head of a specialized unit of Israel Military Industries, which manufactures several kinds of advanced rockets, says there is an improved version of the Grad with a range of 40 kilometers. He said that the Palestinians in Gaza could increase the range of the Grad by reducing the size of the warhead. “In such a case the range could reach 26 kilometers, but the warhead would be less effective,” he explained.

Experts from Israeli defense industries already said a few months ago that a steady improvement in the rockets manufactured in Gaza had been perceptible for a long time and that a considerable effort was being invested in improving their lethalness. “You can see in the films shot by Hamas that the launching of the rockets is smoother and they seem to have learned a lot,” one of the experts said. The terrorist organizations in Gaza are capable today of producing by themselves most of the components for the Kassam rockets launched against Israel.

Sources in the Israeli security establishment believe that the Grad rockets being fired at Ashkelon are part of a fresh shipment that arrived in Gaza after the Palestinians broke through the border wall into Egypt two months ago..

“These rockets were not in storage for long, and that is why they cause more damage,” an expert in the field said last night. In the past, most of the Grad rockets fired into Israel did not reach their full range, and some of them even fell close to the launching point.

Experts in Israel have also suspected that Iran may try to supply its own Fajr rockets to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. These rockets, which were supplied by the Iranians to Hezbollah, were fired into Israel during the Second Lebanon War in 2006 and reached a range of 30-50 miles.

Ultimately, Hamas’ goal is to hit strategic facilities such as the Ashdod port. “One rocket hitting the port will bring it to a standstill. No foreign shipping company will send ships to a port where rockets are landing,” an informed Israeli shipping source said on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and urged her to make every possible effort to stop the Israeli attack in the Gaza Strip.

After the conversation, the State Department spokesman in Washington called on Israel to avoid arming “innocent people,” saying that Ms. Rice’s visit to the Middle East would take place as planned.

Ms. Rice is expected to arrive today and meet both Mr. Olmert and Mr. Abbas.

David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com

©The Bulletin 2008

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Previous articleIsrael Attacks Gaza, Offensive Reaches Second Day
Next articleAbbas Opposed To ‘Armed Struggle’ – For Now’
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.