New York – The ZOA has expressed deep concern over the ongoing, weak Israeli response to continuing attacks upon Israel by Palestinian terrorists groups following the wounding yesterday of five Israeli soldiers, including a battalion commander, by a Qassem rocket that struck their army base at Zikim, south of Ashkelon. This was the second Qassem rocket to strike Israel yesterday. The first landed earlier outside Ashkelon.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) responded with an artillery barrage at the area from which the rockets were fired. The terrorist group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) claimed responsibility for both rocket attacks, which pose a threat to strategic targets such as the Rothenberg power plant in the southern outskirts of the city ( Jerusalem Post, December 22).
Rocket and mortar attacks upon Israel from Gaza following Israels withdrawal from the territory last September have been frequent, yet Israel has on many occasions either not responded or simply responded by shelling empty fields from which rockets were launched. Examples:
- September 27: Qassem rockets are fired into Israel from Gaza. The IDF targeted three vacant access routes used by terrorists near Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip.
- October 24-26: Following Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza upon Sderot in the Negev, the IDF again fired into an empty field and at two empty buildings, launched a few missiles, including one at a Fatah office, and sent planes over Gaza creating sonic booms but firing at only a few targets.
- November 1-2: Nine Qassem rockets and mortars are fired at the western Negev, two hitting Netiv Haasara, a community close to the Gaza border. The IDF responded with firing artillery shells at an empty field south of Beit Hanoun.
- November 28: Qassem rockets fired at an Israeli town near the southern Gaza border. The IDF did not respond. Further rockets hit an Israeli house north of Gaza and in the Negev. The IDF fired 40 rounds in response at the fields from which rockets were launched.
- December 2-3: Qassem rockets are fired at Ashkelon, Nativ Haasara and Sderot. The IDF attacked three access routes, open fields and an empty structure used by terrorists to launch rockets against Israel.
- December 19: Qassem rockets fired from Gaza. The IDF fired at 11 access routes used by the terrorists firing rockets.
- December 20: Qassem rockets fired at Israel from northern Gaza. The IDF fired back at seven access routes used by the terrorists.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, We are deeply concerned and disappointed at Israels feeble response over several months to continuing terrorist attacks following the withdrawal from Gaza and northern Samaria. In the months and weeks leading up to this withdrawal, which the ZOA predicted repeatedly would lead to a continuation and even upsurge in terrorism, senior Israeli government officials responded by saying that any further terrorist attacks from Gaza would be met by tough, sustained military responses.
Israels Ambassador to the United States, Danny Ayalon, told the ZOA mission to Washington DC in June that, in the event of further terrorism, Israel would reply with overwhelming force that had not been seen before. Even more recently, in September, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said that any more terrorism from Gaza will be met with a crushing response. But there has been no crushing response and sometimes there has been no response at all.
Three months since the withdrawal, it is patently clear that Israels deterrent posture has not only been weakened by the unilateral retreat from Gaza and northern Samaria, but further eroded by the timid, inconsistent and mild response to rockets raining down on Israeli towns, farms and houses. Terrorists feel they can wage a risk-free war by firing rockets at Israel, knowing that Israeli responses will leave them unharmed.
We strongly urge the Israeli government to live up to its repeated promises of serious responses to attacks. In this context we remind the Israeli government that the IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz stated in October that, contrary to what many argue, Israel does have a military option to defeat terrorism and bring it down very close to zero. Israel must cease encouraging the Palestinian terrorists to think that they can operate with impunity.