Sunday morning, Oct. 30, Jihad Islami denied knowledge of a truce Egypt called for 0600 Sunday morning. By 0700 hours it had launched eleven Grad missiles and two mortar rounds from the Gaza Strip at Ashdod, Gan Yavne, Lahavim, Ashkelo, Kiryat Malachi, Rahat and Shear Hanegev on the second day of its massive assault.
Saturday night, after more than 35 Palestinian missiles, most heavy Grads, had battered eight Israeli towns, Egyptian sources reported Israel and the Palestinian organizations of the Gaza Strip had accepted a truce starting 0600 Sunday morning. Earlier, one of those missiles hit an Ashkelon home and killed Ami Moshe, 56. Seven people were injured and dozens of people were treated for shock. The damage was substantial.
Saturday night, six more missiles hit Beersheba, Lahavim, Shear Hanegev and Ashkelon. Israeli air strikes hit six Palestinian terrorist targets – a tunnel and three missile launch pads in northern Gaza and two more in the south. There was no discernible deterrent effect on the missile assault. Schools were ordered to stay closed Sunday in eight southern Israeli towns
Cairo's ceasefire initiative leaves Israel with two major concerns:
1. The Jihad Islami, which takes its orders and funding from Iran, will ignore the ceasefire and redouble its missile offensive against Israel to show Cairo and Jerusalem who has the whip hand.. A sharp Israeli response would place the truce breakdown at Israel's door.
2. Jihad will decide whether or not to continue its attacks depending on its orders from Damascus and Tehran rather than Cairo. They will decide if it is worth their while for Egypt's rulers to walk off with the success of damping down a major escalation.
Syrian ruler Bashar Assad hardly signaled a pacific intent when, in an interview to the Sunday Telegraph of October 30, he warned the West against intervening in the popular uprising raging against his regime:
"Syria is the hub now in this region. It is the fault line, and if you play with the ground you will cause an earthquake … Do you want to see another Afghanistan, or tens of Afghanistans?
"Any problem in Syria will burn the whole region."
Therefore the chances of Egypt's ceasefire initiative taking hold are tenuous at best. Iran will no doubt take the chance of muscle-flexing in support of Assad. The Jihad confrontation with Israel suits both their plans.
debkafile reported Saturday:
Of the eight people injured by the massive Jihad Israeli missile offensive against Israeli towns Saturday, Oct. 29, one man died of wounds sustained when his home in Ashkelon was hit. Schools in southern Israel and Beersheba University will stay closed Sunday and people living within range of missile fire from Gaza told to stay near fortified buildings. The missile assault included 25 heavy Grads launched in several rounds at Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ofakim, Gan Yavneh, Kiryat Malachi and Eshkol farm district, causing substantial damage.
The fifth Grad missile to explode in Ashdod port town caused a fire between two high-rise residential buildings and after an empty school yard was hit. Three more landed in the Western Negev, another in Gan Yavneh causing minor injuries to one person and several shock cases, and two hits on empty ground in Ofakim. As Beersheba went on missile alert, three mortar rounds hit the Eshkol farm district.
From the first debkafile report:
An Israeli air strike against a Palestinian Jihad Islami camp near Rafah, southern Gaza, Saturday Oct. 29, killed Ahmad Sheikh Halil, head of its missile engineering and production arm and foiled another planned attack.
"Abu Khader" ranked high in the Jihad's Al Qods unit. The Israel raid also killed five of his team members who Wednesday fired three Grad missiles from Hamas-ruled Gaza at Beer Tuvia and Gan Yavne.
Although only one Grad attack was reported in that first assault last Wednesday, our sources report that at least three missiles were actually aimed at undisclosed towns and at least one strategic site in southern Israel. debkafile's military sources calculate that the first barrage was a range-finding run in preparation for a major offensive from a launching pad west of Rafah – probably against targets near Beersheba.
Those sources report that Saturday's air strike was to have foiled this attack. The Jihad Islami's immediate response was to hit back hours later with a massive missile offensive "deep inside Israel."
According to debkafile's sources, Jihad Islami is acting on orders from Tehran and Damascus to make trouble and provoke a fresh Hamas-Israel confrontation for the purpose of derailing the deal behind the Shalit prisoner swap which provides for the transfer of Hamas' political headquarters out of the Syrian capital to Cairo and Amman.
The top-level Hamas desertion of Damascus would seriously undermine Bashar Assad at a time when he needs all the help he can get against the popular uprising against him. It would also deprive Iran of a strong Palestinian asset under its control.
The Israeli-Egyptian border north of Eilat is also on terror alert against the large Jihad Islami cell standing by in Sinai for some weeks waiting for the chance for a multiple-casualty-cum-abduction attack.