Fires blaze in Ashkelon’s shopping center from direct rocket hit Saturday amid heavy battles in N. Gaza

debkafile‘s military sources report that after 21 missiles slammed into Ashkelon and Sderot and their environs overnight, Israeli Givati Brigade troops backed by tanks, self-propelled guns, F-16 fighters and helicopters went after terrorist targets in Sejaya and Jebalya, N. Gaza Strip early morning Saturday, March 1. Five Israeli soldiers were injured, two very seriously. The Palestinians report 35 dead, 15 in battle, the rest civilians including 5 children, as well as 120 injured. Two waves of Grad rockets hit the Israeli town of Ashkelon for the third day running. Two crashed into a house, injuring 5 people, two of them children. There were dozens of shock victims. Another 11 Qassam missiles explode at Sderot Saturday.
Our military sources report the Israeli military command is now targeting Hamas rule of the Gaza Strip as ultimately the only effective way of halting the Palestinian missile offensive against civilian locations. It therefore proposes to systematically destroy Hamas institutions one by one until its rule of Gaza caves in.
This tactic was presented to prime minister Ehud Olmert Friday on his return from Japan. If Hamas alternatively decides it can no longer afford the exorbitant price exacted by the Israeli military for sustaining its missile offensive, so much the better. Meanwhile, the port town of Ashdod north of Ashkelon and 27 km from Gaza is preparing for start of Palestinian rockets attacks. Twelve alert systems are ready.
The IDF has set itself the following targets:
Every Palestinian military and security installation belonging to Hamas, as well as its Al Dawa social welfare branches used as meeting places and the money changers’ places of business.
A series of ground operations on the same lines as the Sejayia raid will be launched to drive Hamas and its allied terrorist groups out of northern Gaza – the sites of most missile launches against Ashkelon and Sderot. Once this part of the territory is purged, Israeli military control can be exercised without reoccupation.
debkafile‘s Palestinian sources report that Hamas leaders are well aware of the IDF’s revamped tactics and have employed counter-measures.
1. Their heads of government, armed wings and clerical authorities have gone to ground.
2. Their rank and file have taken over an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 civilian homes around Gaza City active and set up a wall for the town’s defense. Each home is provisioned with sufficient ammo, water and food for three weeks’ combat.
3. All Hamas operatives have dumped their cell phones and all means of communication which could betray their whereabouts. Orders and messages are carried by courier, usually children.
4. Thousands of missiles and rockets of different types are stocked in private homes and schools inside Gaza City and its refugee camps to escape Israeli attacks. This stratagem allows Hamas to calibrate its missile barrages on Israeli civilians according to the intensity of Israeli strikes against them.

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