Qassem rocket attacks against Israel continue at the same high daily rate since Israel withdrew in September from Gaza and northern Samaria and are occurring on a daily basis, according to a report from Haaretz’s Nir Hasson. Since September 15, a total of 239 rockets have been fired at Israel, according to the Red Dawn warning system, which monitors Qassam launches.
This rate of rocket fire does not differ greatly from the period prior to the disengagement, when the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) still controlled the Gaza Strip. Continuing Qassem rocket attacks have disproved the claims of supporters of the withdrawal that the Negev would be quiet after Gaza was evacuated. Moreover, the evacuation of northern Gaza has permitted Palestinian terrorists to move their rocket launch sites closer to Israel, enabling them to hit the industrial zone south of Ashkelon, where several vital infrastructure facilities such as the Rutenberg power plant are located.
Over the past week, two Qassam rockets landed in this area, arousing concern among both Ashkelon officials and the defense establishment (Haaretz, December 21). Today, five Israeli soldiers, including a battalion commander, were wounded by a Qassem rocket that struck their army base at Zikim, south of Ashkelon (Jerusalem Post, December 22).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “It is clear three months after the withdrawal from Gaza that rocket assaults on Israel from Gaza have not stopped or been reduced but on the contrary continue on a daily basis just as they did before the withdrawal. Moreover, new parts of Israel have become vulnerable to Palestinian rockets since the withdrawal, including vital assets near Ashkelon, which was previously safe from these attacks.
Since Israel left Gaza, the Egyptian-Gaza border has not been sealed, terrorists have swarmed into Gaza as have tons of heavy weaponry and explosives. Contrary to the extra security Israel was told by supporters of the withdrawal that would be gained, there is today less security for Israelis and the prospect of more serious harm to Israeli civilians and property.
“Recognition of the worsening situation in Gaza has been publicly recognized by three senior Israelis officials: Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Knesset Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee Chairman, Yuval Steinitz, and IDF Gaza Brigade Commander Brigadier-General Aviv Kochavi. Mofaz has said that, ‘If the [security] situation does not improve and the Palestinians don’t cooperate, we will close the … [border] crossings.’ Steinitz has said, ‘I am sure the Gazans are laughing at us more than they are scared by our shooting at them’ while Kochavi has said that the current situation cannot be allowed to continue.”