Not only Qassams (archives)
Photo: Tsafrir Abayov
Senior officer: New rockets a real threat on home front
IDF officials believe Hamas has accumulated significant number of long-range rockets while continuing to arm. According to estimates, however, Palestinian organization's ability to launch missiles into central Israel is limited
The new rockets in Hamas' possession will one day turn into a real threat on the home front, a senior Israel Defense Forces officer told Ynet on Tuesday, after Major-General Amos Yadlin, head of the Military Intelligence Directorate, said the Palestinian organization recently held a successful trial launch of a rocket with a 60-kilometer range which could reach parts of Tel Aviv.


Military sources noted that despite the improved rockets, Hamas' ability to launch missiles into central Israel is limited, but added that it was only a matter of time before this ability is improved, with Iran's support.


The Israeli army, however, is not waiting for the Iron Dome anti-missile system to become operational in mid 2010, and is preparing for an escalation in other ways.


"Just like the IDF was prepared for Operation Cast Lead, it is operating now by preparing and training in order to respond powerfully to any development," a military official said.


In the meantime, the Home Front Command is not preparing to hand out instruction manuals or implement other plans in the communities which are subject to the new threat, mainly due to the fact that the threats from the Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon already over most of the country's areas.


On Wednesday, the Home Front Command will conduct an air raid siren test in central Israel. A 90-second siren will sound in the cities of Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Bnei Brak and Givatayim at 11 am. In the event of a real-time siren a second, consecutive siren will be sounded immediately.


The test was planned several months ago and is not related to the intelligence chief's revelation. However, it illustrates that the IDF is preparing for a day when the threat will turn into reality.


"Hamas is deterred and has no desire to act now, but it is definitely preparing for the next conflict, which may take place whenever it wants," a military source explained. "Hamas members have analyzed their mistakes from Cast Lead and are now implementing the lessons, including handling their supply of rockets and improving them."


'Solution before range reaches 120 km'

In the Gaza vicinity communities, which have been suffering from the rocket terror for more than eight years now, residents hope that a solution will finally be found for the rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.


Tamara Cohen from Moshav Ein Habesor told Ynet, "It doesn't matter if its here, in Tel Aviv, in Jerusalem or in Yeruham. There is no difference between us and Tel Aviv. When buses exploded there, it was quiet here. The people of Tel Aviv don’t live in a bubble, and I would feel sorrow seeing them experience the rocket fire.


"A solution must be found for the problem, because tomorrow they will have a missile which may reach a range of 120 kilometers. They too are advancing in terms of technology. It's clear that a military or political solution is needed," she said.


Ophir Liebstein from Kibbutz Kfar Aza says the residents of the Gaza vicinity knew that the rocket range would grow as time went by. "It's a chronicle which is known in advance. It was only a matter of time. The fact that the circle is increasingly growing and can reach Tel Aviv was expected. We saw it during Cast Lead, when the rockets reached Beersheba, Ashdod and Yavne.


"As soon as a quicker solution – or agreement, or military operation – is found, we will all be better off. There is no malicious joy here. If cars are being transferred through tunnels, there is no problem to transfer long-range missiles as well. We hope this will serve as a catalyst for the government to come up with solutions," he said.


Iris Levy of Kibbutz Kerem Shalom added, "The distance to Tel Aviv from Ahskelon and Ashdod was a matter of time, not of distance. This is a disaster for the State and a red flag."


The kibbutz's secretary, Zohar Ronen, is not worried that the long-range missiles will be directed at his community, but doubts that this is what will make the residents of Israel wake up. "This is not what will cause the Tel Avivians to think of us more or less."


Ilana Curiel contributed to this report


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