Qassams Confound Israeli Army

A stunned relative of the two young children killed in the Palestinian Qassam missile attack in the southern Israeli city of Sderot Wednesday, September 29, summed up prime minister Ariel Sharon`s failure to put an end to this form of terrorism as he rushes ahead with his Gaza pullout plan.
“I saw a small boy covered with blood, and I went into shock. Then I saw a little girl whose legs had been blown off. I saw red. What is going on here? The prime minister is putting money in his pocket and we are being fed Qassams!”
The young man said it straight from the shoulder: Sharon is paid by the Israeli taxpayer to do a job, meaning that infants like two-year-old Dorit Aniso are entitled to live and terrorists in the Gaza Strip must never be permitted to fire crude rockets of the type that blasted off the legs of Yuval Abebeh, 4.
Israeli television quickly cut away from the emotional attack on the prime minister in favor of the usual dispassionate and tedious studio commentary on such incidents.
“The chief of staff is holding consultations,” one commentator said.
“The prime minister is holding consultations by telephone,” echoed another.
And of course, the cliched warnings that fall ineffectually on deaf Hamas ears: “The terrorist organizations will pay a heavy price.”
Once again, the army set up roadblocks along the Gaza Strip`s main roads to divide the region into three zones. However, the military omitted to mention of the fact that the Sderot attack coincided with the fourth anniversary of the start of the Israeli-Palestinian war.
Forty-eight months into the so-called Palestinian uprising, an Israeli town was hit by 11 primitive missiles in four days and two small children murdered.
All the signs point to the fact that neither the Israeli army nor the Sharon government has a clue on how to defeat the homemade Qassam.
The Palestinians have achieved four additional victories:
1. Anarchy may prevail in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, but there is method to the Palestinian madness. It not only enables Yasser Arafat to exercise complete control in the Gaza Strip but also allows him – as Israel watches helplessly – to use the territory for transforming his four-year old campaign of suicidal terror into a full-scale war. Two actions in the second half of September point to this abrupt turning of the tide: Palestinian infiltrators penetrated an IDF post near Morag and killed an officer and two soldiers; then, a direct mortar hit on a Neve Dekalim home caused the death of 24-year-old Tiferet Tratner. Next came the abduction, and release 18 hours later, of Israeli Druze journalist, CNN producer, Riad Ali in Gaza City.
And now, two children are dead in Sderot.
2. By constantly rocketing Sderot and other Israeli communities within range of the Gaza enclave, the Palestinians are signaling their readiness to pursue what they perceive as their victory in the battle against Sharon’s plan to evacuate Gush Katif with their next objective. They are embarking on a battle for the Negev.
3. Israel’s pre-state Haganah force turned the noisy Davidka mortar into a “weapon of terror” that put Arabs to flight during the 1948 War of Independence. Now the Palestinians are using their primitive Qassam, Nasser and al Quds missiles to terrorize Sderot. Many of the town’s shock victims declared after the death of the two children on Succoth Eve that they would be packing their bags and moving out.
4. The Palestinian Qassam onslaught owes its success to Israel`s failure to shut down the network of weapons smuggling tunnels crisscrossing the Gaza-Egypt border. This underground system enables the Palestinians to import trained fighters and explosives from Egyptian northern Sinai virtually unhindered and build bigger and better Qassam warheads. It is only a matter of time before their range is lengthened to reach cities deeper inside Israel and make them more accurate.
Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz was bombarded with complaints on a visit to Sderot a day before the deadly Qassam attack. He hinted the military was preparing tactical changes that would free the town of missile harassment. “Of course, I won’t get into details about this,” Mofaz said.
Several hours later, Israeli armor began rolling toward the northern Gaza towns of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya and the Palestinian refugee camp of Jabalya to tackle the launch-and-run Qassam squads. But no new tactics distinguished this offensive from previous operations. The defense minister’s promise appeared vain, exposing three worrying developments:
A. For the first time, the Israeli defense establishment hitherto known for its relatively high credibility has begun to fall into the spin-doctor tactics employed by Sharon and his advisers. Thus far, IDF commanders have not caught the affliction. They kept silent after the Sderot attack, rather than joining the loud media chorus of what Israel had in store: “The prime minister said the rocket attack would be met by a harsh response” and “The Israel Defense Forces will shortly pour very large forces into the Gaza Strip and widen their scope of operation.” There was also talk of employing drones to detect and target missile-launchers and the creation of a buffer zone.
By Thursday morning, the day after the two children were murdered, none of this had happened, save for the routine roadblocks that partition the Gaza Strip into three impassable sectors after every terrorist attack.
What did occur was the launching by Palestinians of two attacks in the northern Gaza Strip. One band hurled grenades and fired assault rifles at an IDF unit scouring the Jebalya camp for Qassam launchers. One Israeli soldier was killed before the assailants were cut down. A second Palestinian pair killed two Israelis in an ambush on the internal Nisanit-Elei Sinai road near the territory’s northern border with Israel. They were killed in a lengthy firefight.
The Palestinians had shown that they held the battlefield initiative in the current round of hostilities.
B. Sharon is so obsessed with his Gaza pullout plan, which may have seemed feasible when it was first announced several months ago, that his hands are tied even though the Palestinians are fast turning his blueprint into their own weapon of operations against Israel.
C. The defense minister has thrown his wholehearted support behind Sharon’s objectives, refusing to heed the warnings coming from his chief of staff – “We must face up to the facts as they are and not ignore reality” — and head of military intelligence – “Terrorism will escalate on the West Bank after the Gaza pullout”.
If the prognosis of military intelligence chief Maj.-Gen Yaakov Zeevi comes true, Qassam missiles are destined to slam into Israeli cities within range, Afula, Hadera, Kfar Saba and Raanana.
Another symptom of the paralysis holding the Sharon government in its grip came from a small news item published this week stating that security officials were considering raising the defense wall scheduled to protect greater Jerusalem from terrorist incursions by another three meters (10 feet). They figured that Palestinians would be daunted from clambering over, as they now do, if faced with a barrier eight meters (26 feet) tall.
Will that help? Probably not. The Palestinians will find another way over or tunnel under. Jerusalem rock is riddled with natural caves and loose topsoil. Or they will start shooting Qassams over the fence, however high. They are already reported carrying out trials of various rockets in the Nablus area.
Clearly, the Sharon government by locking itself into a preconceived plan is being thrown back on bad defense measures instead of pursuing effective offensive action that would offer Israel a true escape from harsh reality.

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