The IDF dispatched armored corps and infantry reinforcements to key points near the northern Gaza Strip Saturday. The army is now waiting for orders from the security-political cabinet, convened by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Tel Aviv Saturday evening.
Meanwhile, the Qassam rocket barrage on southern Israel continued, with several more rockets fired at the area. One Qassam landed in the southern town of Sderot, lightly wounding one person. Three more people were treated for shock.
Troops prepare for action (Photo: AFP)
IDF Southern Command officers have already prepared plans for response to the latest Qassam barrage. Meanwhile, the IDF has been given the authority to fire back at terrorists and act against Hamas rocket launchers. Currently, the forces are deployed outside the northern Gaza Strip and have assumed dominating positions in the face of potential terror targets.
Police officials also decided to boost their operations, particularly at border areas and around Jerusalem. Meanwhile, the various police districts were instructed to boost their presence at entertainment venues and crowded locations.
‘Test for the government’
Meanwhile, political sources in Jerusalem told Ynet: “Israel responded the way it promised it would, and the response is a sign of things to come. It has already been made clear that following the Gaza exit, a different price will be exacted for every firing (of rockets.)”
“The Palestinian Authority has the opportunity to act, and Abu-Mazen (Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas) must regain his composure and decide whether he wants to remain alive, or the Hamas will take over,” one source said.
Earlier, Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal slammed the government in the wake of the latest rocket barrage on southern Israel, Characterizing the attacks as “reckless abandon.”"Today is the government's test and we are waiting for an appropriate response," he said. "Should the country not respond the way we expect it to, it will never respond."
Moyal added that according information he received, about 36 rockets landed in Sderot.
Earlier, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz emphasized that the Palestinians must understand Israel will not let the incident pass lightly, and that its response must be "firm and unequivocal."
Knesset member Ehud Yatom (Likud) said in response to the attack that the rocket barrage on Sderot calls for a harsh and immediate response, as pledged by the defense establishment.
"Citizens will not be abandoned because of a weak and unstable policy of restraint," he said.
Meretz-Yachad Party Chairman Yossi Beilin said in response, "Only strengthening the PA and cooperation against Hamas and a return to dialogue will bring a decline in violence."
Minister Matan Vilnai (Labor) said Israel must react with whatever strength needed to prevent a new phenomenon of rocket fire from Gaza over the western Negev.
"Following the withdrawal, there is no legitimacy for the Qassam fire from the Strip, something which allows Israel a harsher response," he said.
A night of fire
Meanwhile, the IDF has closed off the Judea, Samaria, Jordan Valley and Gaza Strip areas Saturday, following a decision by the political echelon and according to an evaluation of the current situation.
As a result, Palestinian workers will not be permitted to enter and exit Israel through the Erez and Karni border crossings.
About 30 Qassam rockets were fired early Saturday from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory.
One rocket landed in the Shaar Hanegev area, moderately injuring one person and lightly wounding two others.
They were evacuated to Ashkelon's Barzilai Hospital for medical assistance.
About 26 rockets were fired at Sderot, two over Nahal Oz, one over Kibbutz Raim and another at the Kissufim crossing, where damage was caused to property.
Four Sderot residents were treated for shock and damage was caused to a number of structures in the southern town.
Tova Dadon contributed to the story