Eight Qassams were fired from Gaza toward the western Negev Wednesday and Thursday morning, marking a record number of rockets that landed in Israel since the agreed upon truce with the Palestinian Authority went into effect last month.
A senior Israel Defense Forces official told Ynet that “Israel’s policy toward the incessant Qassam rocket fire may be interpreted as a sign of weakness.”
Following the launching of some 40 Qassams since the agreed upon ceasefire went into effect, army officials are increasingly calling for retaliation, including pinpoint attacks on rocket-launching area and Qassam cells.
Ynet has learned that the IDF recently decided to remove artillery batteries that were placed around the Gaza Strip a few months after the disengagement, this following the errant fire on Beit Hanoun and the truce.
At around 4 p.m. two rockets landed in the Suffa crossing area, and earlier two more Qassams were fired toward Sderot but landed in open areas outside the city. The fifth rocket landed near a kibbutz in the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council, while the sixth landed at 4:15 p.m. south of Ashkelon.
At around 11 p.m. another rocket landed in an open area near a western Negev kibbutz.
Early Thursday morning, the Color Red alert system identified a Qassam rocket fired toward the western Negev, according to the municipality of Sderot. It was reported that the rocket landed outside the city. There was no report of injuries.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Wednesday evening that Israel will rethink its policy of restraint should Palestinian terror groups continue to breach the ceasefire. He noted that the continuous fire of Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel is a blatant violation of the ceasefire. "Israel has no intention to gamble with the safety of its citizens, there is a limit to our restraint," said Peretz.
The Al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, said it was behind the attacks, which the terror group claims came in response to the killing of its members near Jenin.
Al-Quds said the group is planning to carry out more revenge attacks in the future.
“The series of revenge attacks has begun,” a statement issued by the organization said. “We claim responsibility for the rocket attacks, and promise to strike the enemy twice as hard for the breach (of the ceasefire). We will increase the horror in the hearts of the Jews and their cowardly army.”
Rocket outside Sderot (Photo: Almog Sogbeker)
'Last rocket was fired as we speak'
Al-Quds spokesman Abu Ahmed said the next attack on Israel “is inevitable in light of Israel’s repeated violations of the ceasefire; the word calm was taken out of out lexicon.
“No one can blame us for any future escalation or attack,” he added. “We made it clear to all the sides involved that when Israel continues to kill and assassinate, we have the right to act – and we will.”
Two Islamic Jihad activists, wanted by the Israeli security forces, were killed Wednesday during a joint operation of the Shin Bet, the IDF and an elite police unit in the village of Silat al-Hartiyeh west of Jenin.
Special police and Shin Bet forces killed the two men, Salah Sawafta and Hussam Alaysha, both 23, during an arrest raid in the village.
Bullet proof vests, guns and ammunition were found near the bodies.
Security officials said that the two have been involved in terrorist activity throughout recent months.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said during a meeting with his Norwegian counterpart Jens Stoltenberg in Jerusalem Wednesday that, ‘Israel's restraint to ongoing violations of the ceasefire in the form of rocket attacks at southern Israeli cities will soon end.
"Over 40 rockets landed in Israel since the ceasefire and the last one was fired as we speak," Olmert said referring to a Qassam rocket fired earlier in the day from the northern Gaza Strip at the western Negev by Islamic Jihad gunmen.
Also on Wednesday, a young Palestinian woman from Ramallah was arrested at the Atarot roadblock near Jerusalem after a search revealed a large knife in her possession.
During her investigation, the Palestinian said that she had arrived at the roadblock in order to stab a police officer. The girl was transferred to the Jerusalem police department for questioning.
Efrat Weiss and Ronny Sofer contributed to the report