Israel resorted Tuesday night, May 26, to its old routine response to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip by the aerial bombardment of four “terrorist” targets. Once again, Hamas hurriedly removed its personnel from the targeted facilities in time to escape casualties. For Israel it was an opportunity missed. The first Palestinian long-range Grad rocket attack since last summer’s Israeli operation in Gaza, was an chance to go for really potent terrorist infrastructure, such as the new tunnels the Palestinians are again running under the border and Israeli communities, in which they are investing precious cement.. Instead, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’olon, chose to play the incident down Official sources attributed the attack to “infighting among Palestinian groups” and claimed that only one rocket had been fired, landing at Gan Yavne and causing no casualties or damage.
The soft response to the three short-range rocket and mortar attacks of recent months may have encouraged the Palestinian groups to go for escalation with Grads. If so, Israel’s minor response Tuesday night will give them the incentive to carry on.
Equally disturbing was the unexplained reduction of five rockets to one in official communiqués. Shortly after the attack, debkafile reported from its military sources that Israeli Air Force drones had identified five rocket launches from the Al Ajaloun district of Gaza City and tracked them as the crossed over to Israel.
This was our report Tuesday directly after the incident.
Sirens across southern Israeli Tuesday night, May 26, warned of at least five incoming rockets from the Gaza Strip. They were accompanied by loud explosions. One long-range Grad rocket exploded in the industrial zone of the coastal city and port of Ashdod near the Big In shopping mall which was crowded with shoppers; another on Frnakfurter St in the town. More explosions occurred at the entrance to Gan Yavne and were heard in the Lachish district. No casualties were immediately reported except for a number of shock victims, but accounts of damage are still awaited.
debkafile’s military sources report that the rockets were fired from the Sheikh Ajloun district of Gaza City, and spotted by IDF surveillance by air and land.
There have been three incidents of short-range rockets fired at Israeli communities from the Gaza Strip since last summer’s IDF operation in the Gaza Strip against Hamas. But the Grad attack Tuesday night was the most significant. Seconds later, a large number of Israeli drones were deployed over Gaza. Israeli military units deployed in the Gaza sector and local police were placed on a high state of readiness. Coinciding with the rocket attack, a Palestinian driver drove his car at a group of Israelis outside Gush Etzion on the West Bank. No information about this incident has yet been received.
The Islamic Jihad and Popular Front have meanwhile claimed responsibility for shooting the rockets. Hamas is rushing to evacuate its command posts and bases for fear of Israeli retaliation. In the coastal towns of Ashdod and Ashkelon, the municipal authorities held emergency meetings to decide whether to open schools and kindergartens Wednesday morning. Beersheba announced schools would operate as usual. The Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon has begun moving patients down to fortified wards.