The Qassams that rocked Sderot Tuesday evening caught Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz during a joint political-military exercise. Stationed at military headquarters in Tel Aviv, they gave the IDF the authorization to respond based on predetermined standard operating procedures for such a situation.
IAF helicopters fired at the open fields in northern Gaza used by terror groups to launch the rocket attacks in an attempt to deter immediate future attacks. Palestinian officials said no one was hurt.
Peretz intends to call a special security forces meeting later this evening, which IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenaz is supposed to attend in order to discuss possible military actions.
At the current juncture, no emergency security cabinet meeting is planned and both Olmert and Peretz seem willing to wait for the scheduled security cabinet next week in order to determine a plan for continued action.
This is because Sunday's security cabinet meeting focused on the security situation in Gaza, including discussions on possible scenarios and reactions.
Given that both Olmert and Peretz have remarked that the IDF's policy of restraint is not without limits, sources in Jerusalem said the security cabinet may meet sooner.
""It is not out of the question for the cabinet to meet and decide on a response. No one could fault Israel for any actions it might take," they said.
The sources said that it was especially unfortunate for the attack to have come on a day when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was in Jordan, "extending a hand of peace to Arab nations," the sources said.
A military official posited that the Qassam salvo on Sderot was meant to distract the Palestinian population's attention form the escalating conflict between factions in the Palestinian Authority, which culminated Tuesday in several deaths after Hamas attacked a Presidential Guard training base near Karni crossing.
"Things in Gaza are getting increasingly more difficult," said the military officials. "Hamas would rather everyone focus on Israel now." The IDF is scheduled to hold meetings later tonight to discuss the evening's events.
Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that the IDF must be given free reign to battle the Qassam attacks. "It's the most basic duty of any government to defend its citizens. Therefore the time has come to stop talking and start acting. There must be a heavy price to pay when Israeli citizens are wounded. I expect there to be an immediate decision regarding a harsher response," said Lieberman.
"We just received more proof that the southern front is getting hotter. A strong, surgical strike against the Qassam launchers is appropriate," added Vice Premier and Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Eli Yishai.