Hamas terrorists have developed a Qassam rocket with a 16.5 kilometer (about 10 miles) range. As a result, the power station in the southern town of Ashkelon, as well as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s private residence, Sycamore Ranch, are now in range of the Qassams.
According to reports received by Israel recently, Hamas’ engineers were able to achieve a significant advance in their rocket technology. The new rockets are not operational yet, but rather, in advance stages of development and experimentation, but a senior security official said the Hamas will possess ready-to-use rockets in several months if development work continues.
Such rockets would threaten dozens of other Israeli communities as well as sensitive sites.
Officials here are concerned that the first cargo ships to reach the Gaza port following the disengagement will carry equipment that will allow terrorists to improve their Qassams.
“It’s already waiting in a warehouse somewhere,” an Israeli expert said Saturday. “If under improvised conditions they were able to produce such a quantity of rockets, we can expect very ‘hot’ days after the pullout.”
The expert also warned that better explosives would make the rockets more lethal and destructive.
According to intelligence information, terror groups in Gaza already possess rockets with an 11-12 kilometer range (about 7 miles) but have not fired them on Israel yet. The longest-range Qassam to be fired at Israel to date traveled nine kilometers (close to six miles.)
Intelligence assessments regarding the rocket threat lead to a decision to install the Red Dawn anti-Qassam alert system in Ashkelon. Currently, the system operates in the southern town of Sderot, ravaged by rocket attacks over the past year.
Arieh Egozi and Itzik Saban contributed to the story