Two Qassam missiles in construction and launchers uncovered in West Bank town of Nablus, after first 122mm Katyusha reaches northern Ashkelon

debkafile reports: This drastic security deterioration on two Palestinian fronts occurred Thursday, Jan. 3 A large Israeli force of several battalions uncovered the first West Bank Qassam workshop in Nablus in an operation which left 20 armed Palestinians injured. Its presence brings central Israel within range of Palestinian missile fire for the first time.
In the south, the first Katyusha rocket with an extended range of up to 18 km reached northern Ashkelon – another first. Of the same type as Hizballah used to pound northern Israel in 2006, the rocket landed on open ground in the Mediterranean port and resort town, causing no casualties.
Southwestern Israel was also bombarded by 10 Qassam missiles and 23 mortar rounds. Nine Palestinians were later killed in Israeli air force retaliatory attacks on Hamas targets in Gaza.
Until now, the shorter-range Qassam missiles reached Ashkelon’s southern outskirts. The Grad rocket attack came 24 hours after Israel turned a blind eye to Cairo’s surrender to the Hamas demand to open the Rafah terminal for the unmonitored entry of hundreds of Hamas high-ups and fighters trained in Iran and Syria, carrying weapons and $150 m war funding, in a group of pilgrims returning from Mecca.
Official sources in Jerusalem argued that Israel’s relations with Egypt were of strategic value, even though Cairo was giving Hamas free rein to boost its war of terror against Israel.
The thinking in the Israeli prime minister’s office is that calm relations with Egypt and its president – a week before US president George W. Bush’s visit to the region – count for more than the security of Ashkelon’s 105,000 inhabitants and the important national utilities located there.

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