The military wing of the Fatah ruling party, the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, claimed Monday it possesses "Grad" missiles with a range of 25 kilometers (about 15 miles.)
If until today Sderot residents have become used to Qassam fire on a daily basis, it seems residents of Ofakim, Netivot and Kiryat Gat will now also be within range of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.
Senior al-Aqsa Brigades figure Abu Fadi warned that “if Israel sets up a security zone in the northern Gaza Strip our group will not sit idly by. We will use these weapons and the occupation government will be the biggest loser due to its own actions.”
“Members of the rocket unit are capable of hitting targets deep in the Zionist entity. We want to warn the barbaric (Defense Minister Shaul) Mofaz that our men can hit targets in Ashkelon, yet we are not planning on using them at the moment unless Israel attacks the Gaza Strip or assassinates senior Palestinian commanders,” he added.
'Dose of aerial fire'
The IDF has been preparing for a response to the wave of Qassam attacks on Israel last week, which included a rocket that landed in an IDF base Thursday, injuring five troops.
The injury of a commander and four soldiers in the attack prompted the IDF to draw a plan to stop Qassam fire by continuous air and artillery fire on northern Gaza. The government froze Egyptian diplomatic pressure on the Palestinian Authority to act against Qassam fire.
Israel wants to send a message that Qassam attacks come at a price. The IDF recommended a “dose of aerial fire”, which Sharon approved upon his discharge from hospital.
The 122 mm caliber Grad missile, officially known as BM-21, was first used by the Soviet Red Army in 1963. The first missiles were fired from trucks fitted with launchers capable of firing 40 rockets within 6 seconds.
The Soviets later developed Grad versions suitable for aerial and surface fire.
The Grad-P surface-to-surface missiles have a range of 20 kilometers and launchers are used in 50 countries. Over the last decade countries like China, Egypt, North Korea and the Czech Republic have produced Grad missiles.