Crossfire War – RAPID FIRE NEWS=TEHRAN – GAZA – BEIRUT WATCH – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Tehran – Riyadh – Tripoli – Khartoum – Baghdad – El Arish – Damascus – Beirut – Nablus – Gaza/Jerusalem – Cairo – Amman – Paris – Rome – London – Washington; War Between Hamas/Israel Reaches New Level as Wave of Katyusha Rockets Hit Several Districts in Ashkelon – IAF Hits Several Hamas Bases in Gaza – DM Barak “The Situation is the Beginning of a Major Escalation”
Night Watch: JERUSALEM – The war between Hamas/Israel has reached a new level as waves of Katyusha (Grad) rockets hit several districts in Ashkelon on the Mediterranean. The city has a population of more than 100,000, barely 10 miles from the Gaza Strip and is the location of some of Israel’s most important strategic installations including a major oil terminal. Until yesterday Ashkelon had only been hit by some ineffective Qassam rockets and a couple of Katyushas but now the firing has become so intense it has forced the Israeli government to finally come to grips with this alarming situation as Israel’s limited air-ground attacks occur simultaneously with Palestinian rocket-mortar fire around the clock. [JPOST]
The Jerusalem Post quoted Israel Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai, who demanded the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committees be convened, “The situation has been raised to a new level that we cannot ignore. We must convene for a deep and integrated discussion and present different alternatives.” In other words a serious, detailed discussion of military offensives designed to destroy the military infrastructure of Hamas and Palestinian militant units who are now as deeply entrenched in Gaza as Hezbollah is in south Lebanon. Even the hesitant Defense Minister Ehud Barak has now admitted the situation is the beginning of a major enemy escalation, “We must prepare for escalation. A large, significant and tangible ground operation. We won’t flinch.”
Ashkelon – This is almost exactly one year since the beginning of increased Qassam fire from Gaza and when Israel first started discussing a major offensive in response. But it was only the Qassam, with its short range, small warhead and mortar fire hitting Sderot and communities in the western Negev. There were reports then of Palestinians having some Katyusha’s and one may have been fired a year ago but that was it until yesterday. Israel is now flanked, north-south, by two heavily armed communities with the firepower to do major damages to urban areas and until Israel defeats these enemies the rocket fire will increase. This is the result of intelligence on Hamas agents having been trained in Iran-Syria and returned to Gaza recently. INN reports the Katyushas on Thursday were fired in waves and mostly hit residential areas sending more than twenty people into shock. This sounds similar to the salvo fire conducted by Hezbollah two years ago against Haifa and northern Israel when Palestinian militant units, to Israel’s south in Gaza, had not much more than Qassams, some mortars and heavy/light machine guns, virtually no fortifications or bunkers. [INN]
Western Negev – Communities in the western Negev, principally Sderot, still receive their daily Qassam rocket-mortar barrages as two fires were set in the city including a factory in an industrial zone. Debka reports, despite Israel’s air-ground attacks, rockets are still being fired from: rooftops, school buildings, playgrounds and underground pits with children and civilians deliberately being used as cover. [DEBKA]
Saja’iyeh – The Israel Air Force (IAF) continued its air strikes Wednesday on several Hamas bases in Gaza City and other areas of the strip. INN reports one strike specifically targeted the office of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh who is in hiding. Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, speaking from Tokyo stated, “No one in Hamas, whether low ranking or among the senior ranks, will be immune.” IAF attacks resumed Thursday morning with strikes on Gaza’s Saja’iyeh neighborhood that killed some members of the Palestinian Resistance Committee. The areas of Jabalya and Beit Hanun, just four miles from Sderot, were also targeted. More than twenty Palestinians, combatants and civilians, have been killed in less than 48 hours. [INN]
Gaza – A Hamas spokesman, Taheral-Nounou has contemptuously described Israel’s response as having “reached a place of hysteria and struck randomly against the Palestinian people.” Xinhua quoted his statement on Israel’s current campaign, “The goal of this wild campaign is double; strike the program of resistance and firmness and the second goal is to strike the government which protects and supports these factions.” I would not say the Olmert government is in a state of hysteria but they do seem to be confused as they realize they are not in control of the situation at all. Their postponement of a major offensive into Gaza has only strengthened the enemy and limits Israel to just responding to the next attack. They may never have seriously expected Palestinians to reach a military level similar to Hezbollah despite all the warnings for the past year, even from Israel’s own intelligence agencies, Tehran-Damascus were constantly preparing Palestinian groups for just that purpose and to use them offensive as Iran establishes a wider regional war around Jerusalem and is preparing to enter it in the name of supporting Palestinian people perhaps the most popular cause in the region. [XINHUA]
Tehran is an expert at using and manipulating popularity.