Photo: Danny Salomon
Rocket lands south of Ashkelon (Archive photo)
Photo: Danny Salomon
Photo: Tzafriri Avayov
Ashkelon's industrial zone
Photo: Tzafriri Avayov
Qassam lands south of Ashkelon
Rocket lands in area that is home to many infrastructure sites; Islamic Jihad claims responsibility. Sderot mayor, speaking at Ynet forum, slams government, urges ministers to ensure children are safe on way to kindergarten;
A Qassam rocket landed Sunday afternoon in an open area near Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, south of the town of Ashkelon.


The “Red Dawn” alert system identified the launching of the rocket and sappers were promptly dispatched to the area in an effort to pin-point the exact landing site.


Later the al-Quds Brigades of the Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for Qassam attack.


In a statement, the group said that its members "fired a 101 Quds rocket." The organization threatened to continue to attack Israeli targets.


Notably, the area south of Ashkelon is home to many infrastructure sites, including a power station, a large desalination plant, an

oil pipeline, and many factories. Security officials have expressed their concerns in the past over the possibility of a boosted Qassam rocket range that could threaten and severely damage sensitive sites.


The Qassam that landed south of Ashkelon was launched from the area in which the former Dugit settlement was located; IDF forces have recently identified several Qassam and mortar shell launchings from areas evacuated by Israel.



A Prime Minister’s Office sources told Ynet, “We are working at the diplomatic level on the one hand, but we will also act from a security standpoint.


'We are working to increase Qassams' range'


Sources close to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that the IDF stepped up artillery fire and Air Force activity in Gaza following last week’s Qassam attack on Ashkelon’s industrial zone.


“However,” one source said, “the time has not come for a wide-scale ground operation.”


Popular Resistance Committees spokesman Mohammed Abdel Al said his organization is behind a number of the recent Qassam attacks, but refused to tell Ynet whether the group is responsible for Sunday’s attack. However, he did mention that the organization is working to improve the rockets.


“We are working first and foremost to increase the range and also improve the rockets’ accuracy level, which currently stands at 70 percent,” he said.


“We are well aware of the close proximity of sensitive civilian and military facilities to Sderot, Ashkelon and Ashdod; these sites are targeted by the organization’s improved rockets, and those launched by the other resistance groups.


The previous week has been characterized by escalation in the South, with ongoing rocket attacks at western Negev desert communities. One rocket landed in Ashkelon’s southern industrial zone. In response, the IDF launched air and artillery strikes at Gaza Strip targets.


Overnight, the army again attacked Qassam rocket launching sites in northern Gaza.


‘Ground operation not an option at this time’


Sderot mayor Eli Moyal, speaking at the Ynet forum earlier Sunday, claimed the government was powerless in handling Qsssam rocket fire.


"In Israeli reality, thousands of terrorists that want to murder the children of Sderot at every second can reside in peace only 800 meters (0.5 miles) from my house, and Israel is not doing what it’s supposed to do," he said. "This means doing what it can so that God forbid one hair on a child's head on the way to a kindergarten in Sderot will not fall."


Meanwhile, the IDF is deliberating its response to the rocket fire and does not want to "break the rules of the game" before the upcoming Palestinian Authority general elections, and especially in light of Hamas' recent rise in support.


While the army has prepared for a possible ground operation, IDF sources have emphasized that at present it is not an option.


Ali Waked contributed to the report


First published: 18.12.05, 15:44
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