New York – The ZOA is expressing concern over the continuing erosion of Israels deterrent posture by failing to deal with the barrage of rocket fire launched by Palestinian terrorist groups from Gaza since Israels withdrawal last year and agree with former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Moshe Yaalon who stated yesterday that, I would have recommended after the first Qassam rocket fired after the withdrawal, there should have been strong and immediate retaliation (Address to the AIPAC Policy Conference, Washington, March 6, 2006).
Last week, five Qassam rockets fired by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza struck a strategic installation south of Ashkelon, injuring two. National infrastructures in southern Ashkelon include the Rotenberg Power Plant, Israels second-largest electric station, which supplies about a quarter of the countrys electricity, the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline company (EAPC),which operates three oil pipelines linking Ashkelon with Eilat, Ashdod and Haifa, and the Ashkelon seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) plant, the largest desalination plant of its kind in the world, which is set to ultimately provide an annual 100 million cubic meters of water, or some 15% of the countrys domestic consumer demand (Arutz 7, March 3, 2006).
Senior Israeli military figures and analysts confirm that Israel is not following effective strategies to deter these attacks:
- IDF Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz: The army can reduce terror to very close to zero … In contrast to the theory that the army cannot eliminate terrorism, I believe the army can reduce terrorism to the very lowest level. (Jerusalem Post, October 7, 2005).
- Leading Israeli military analyst, Zeev Schiff: Continuing Palestinians rocket barrage testifies to a failure of Israeli deterrence … In the Gaza Strip the security forces have also not succeeded in locating the workshops that produce the Qassams, and most of the metal shops and rocket developers have not been hit. (Jerusalem Post, January 11, 2006).
- A security chief in a community north of Gaza: …the truth has to be told. People here are simply scared. Nobody goes out in the evening, and I think well start to see families leaving this summer already. Everyone who rents here and can leave is already planning on doing so. There is a feeling of helplessness, its clear to us that nothing is being done to solve the problem. We feel like we are the countrys sieve. (Ynet, January 17, 2006).
Since the completion of Israels withdrawal from Gaza last September, Qassem rocket fire on Israeli towns, villages, farms and installations has increased without the IDF responding beyond firing at empty fields and access routes used by the terrorists and sometimes there has been no response at all.
A select list of Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli responses:
- September 27, 2005: 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, 2005: 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, 2005: 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, 2005: 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, 2005: 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 27, 2005: Palestinians launch rocket attacks from Gaza. The IDF fired at two buildings used by the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
- January 3-4, 2006: Qassem rockets fired at Sderot, including one that hits a gas station. The IDF retaliated with artillery fire.
- January 13, 2006: Qassem rockets hit Yad Mordechai and Zikim. The IDF responded with artillery rounds aimed at the launching sites.
- February 3, 2006: Three Israelis, including a 7-month-old baby boy, are wounded when a house in Carmiya south of Ashkelon suffers a direct hit from a Qassam rocket. The IDF responds with an artillery barrage at the rocket launching sites.
- February 23-24, 2006: Five Qassam rockets fired into Israel from the evacuated northern Gaza Strip settlement of Dugit, hitting Netiv Haasarah, Karmiya, Yad Mordechai, Sderot and the southern outskirts of Ashkelon. The IDF returns fire at access routes used by the terrorists.
- March 1, 2006: Five Qassam rockets were fired from Gaza land near Carmiya and Zikim, south of Ashkelon. The IDF fired artillery shells toward the area in the northern Gaza Strip from where the rockets were launched.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, In the six months since Israel left Gaza, Palestinian terrorists have continually attacked Israel with impunity, launching over two hundred rockets into various towns and villages, many of which were previously out of range of Palestinian terrorists when Israeli forces were still in Gaza.
Before the withdrawal, the Israeli government promised harsh responses to any further terrorism emanating from Gaza. Israeli Ambassador Danny Ayalon told the ZOA mission to Washington last June that if terrorism continued from Gaza after the Gaza withdrawal, Israel would re-enter the territory. Unfortunately, after six months, this has not occurred. This lack of response continues now even when vital electric and other critical power grids are now within range of the Palestinian rockets.
The ZOA strongly supports former IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Yaalons position that the Israeli government needs to take much stronger action than they have till now. In fact, Gen. Yaalon stated that he recommended such strong action after the first rocket attack was launched following the Gaza withdrawal last September. The Palestinian Authority under Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas must be sent a clear message that there are severe consequences that will come with further attempts to murder Israelis and destroy Israel s vital infrastructure.