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Kassam rockets and the wall in Israel

By Ariel Natan Pasko
web posted July 5, 2004

The date June 28, 2004 will go down in history for two different but interrelated reasons. While the world focused on how America turned over "sovereignty" to the Iraqis -- and it was reported in Israel too -- the really big story that most of the media missed (except in Israel) was, that Kassam rockets fired from Gaza finally killed two people in Israel. The Oslo War that Yasser Arafat started in September 2000 has moved to the next level.

Three-year-old Afik Zahavi and 50-year-old Mordechai Yosepov were killed and at least 20 other people were injured -- including youngsters -- when a Kassam rocket hit next to a nursery school in Sderot.

Smoke rises as a Palestinian rocket hits a field on the outskirts of the southern Israeli town of Sderot on June 29

At last count, Arabs from Gaza have fired almost 4,200 rockets or mortars on Jewish towns in Gush Katif-Gaza alone. They have fired over 300 Kassam rockets since the start of the Oslo War, with over 70 striking Sderot. After killing people in Sderot, Kassams were fired at the town again the next day, injuring three more people. Sderot, by the way, is a town of over 20,000 people, situated in the western Negev in pre-1967 Israel, about 8 kilometers from Gaza. It is not in so-called "occupied territory".

Israeli security officials believe that Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's Sycamore Ranch home, which is located close to Sderot and about 10 kilometers from Gaza, is the real target of many of the Kassam rockets, which are unguided and frequently inaccurate.

The Kassam rockets fired into Sderot -- that killed the two people -- were the "Nasser-3" type, a recently improved version. Although it has no guidance system, it is a weapon of terror, and as we can see can be deadly. The Kassam weighs 30 kilograms (66 lbs), has a range of 6-7 kilometers (3.7-4.3 miles) that could be extended, and carries a 10-kilogram warhead. It is made more deadly by the shrapnel packed into it, which includes nuts and bolts as well as metallic balls, the same ingredients used by suicide bombers in their bomb belts. Israeli army officials stated that the improved 1.5 meter (yard) long 90mm rocket, carries powerful TNT -- not homemade explosives -- as was the case in the past, this gives it a more powerful and deadly explosion on impact.

Some senior security officials are talking about the eventual deployment of the "Nautilus System" in the Gaza-Negev area. Officially known as the Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser, it's a high-energy laser defense system jointly developed by the US and Israel. It's meant to destroy incoming Katyusha rockets from southern Lebanon into northern Israel. But, it won't be ready until 2007.

After the recent attacks on Sderot, National Union Party leader and former government minister, Avigdor Lieberman warned, "If the [Gaza] disengagement plan is carried out, Kassam rocket attacks will be the lot of cities from Ashkelon to Ofakim [also inside Israel], and will become a daily occurrence." Lieberman, who was forced out of the government recently by Sharon, when he objected to the disengagement plan, called on the government to reconsider.

Residents of Sderot have also rejected the prime minister's plan to withdraw from Gaza. They -- like Lieberman -- say that the abandonment of Gaza is a move that will make such rocket attacks a regular occurrence not just in Sderot but also across the western Negev and the Ashkelon area.

About the West Bank security fence -- the "Wall" -- that Israel is slowly but surely building, I wrote back in August 2003, (The Wall In My Heart):

"...If Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the other terror groups can't access pre-1967 Israel anymore -- if the security fence is that good -- then their motivation to improve their missile technology will grow exponentially. Remember, that as many times as Israeli politicians point out the "impenetrability" of the Gaza security fence and how it's prevented terror attacks originating from Gaza, they never mention the growth of Kassam missile technology and the increasing vulnerability of Negev towns, on the "right side" of the fence, from Gaza. They've even shot Kassams at Ashkelon. Although no Kassams have yet been fired in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), you can be sure that if suicide bombers are kept out by the security fence, they'll start. Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv will then be within range. Imagine more accurate missiles -- maybe even eventually with chemical or biological warheads -- suicide-bombers will be child's play in comparison."

Till now, Kassam rockets have caused few injuries and only minor damage, but much fear. We have now seen the first deaths from the "Palestinian's" ultimate terror weapon. The Israeli government waited -- as usual -- until some serious problem -- two deaths -- developed. But now post-June 28th, the Israeli government needs to take swift, firm, and consistent action in the Palestinian Authority areas that are used to launch the rockets, against the terror groups throughout Gaza that make and use them, and against the PA itself.

Disengagement is a suicide plan. Sharon should have learned from the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the debacle called the "Bar-Lev Line," that passive defense with walls, fences, sensors, lasers, won't work.

If Israel doesn't succeed in stopping the use of Kassams as a tactical weapon of terror, it will most likely be faced with them as a strategic weapon, possibly even of mass destruction.

The world should have focused more on what happened June 28th in Israel, and they should have learned the lesson being taught. If the Islamic fanatics of Gaza prove that simple rocketry can become a strategic weapon, how long will it take al-Qaida and others to do the same in Iraq and throughout the world? Or will al-Qaida provide Hamas with WMD materiel?

Instead, after attending the NATO meeting held in Turkey, the next day, American President George Bush speaking at Istanbul's Galatasary University focused on the early transfer of power in Iraq and the need for democratic reform in the Middle East. "Terrorist murderers" are preventing a Palestinian state from emerging, Bush said, grouping "Palestinian" terrorists with extremists from around the world, including those in Iraq and Iran. "We see it in the Holy Land, where terrorist murderers are setting back the good cause of the Palestinian people, who deserve a reformed, peaceful, and democratic state of their own," Bush said.

Bush and other western leaders continue to perpetuate the mistaken idea that somehow if we just got rid of the "bad guys," those "terrorist murderers," "Palestine" would become a peaceful haven of co-existence with Israel. Sharon, though not that confused, still hasn't exhibited the will to end the game. Wanting to withdraw behind a strategically defensible wall, into his new hi-tech ghetto, Sharon still speaks of disengagement from Gaza and the West Bank. According to Sharon, that includes expelling Jews from their homes and withdrawing the Israeli Army from all of Gaza and areas of northern Samaria.

How pray tell is that going to stop the "Palestinians" from shooting rockets into Israel?

Yet, after these latest attacks, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz admitted "The initial solution is to take over the areas from which the terrorists launch the rockets...We will stay in the Beit Hanoun and Jabalya refugee camp areas in northern Gaza as long as is necessary." Mofaz continued, "I am sure that after this takeover, the ability to launch Kassams will be diminished." In regards to the more than 300 molds Israeli Army operations have destroyed in their continuing activities against Kassam factories in Gaza, Mofaz added, "We will carry out further operations to damage the infrastructure for manufacturing the rockets and continue operations necessary to prevent the carrying out of the shootings."

The current military activity in northern Gaza shouldn't be seen as one fixed operation but rather as a change in the Israeli army's method of operations involving ongoing periodic incursions into the area from which the rockets are fired, according to army sources. They expect to continue operating in the northern Gaza Strip on and off for the next few months.

When asked how the Israeli Army will deal with the Kassam threat after disengaging from Gaza, Mofaz replied that a different reality would be created after the withdrawal. "The chances that terror will diminish after the disengagement exist. However, the IDF will retain its freedom of movement," he said.

That doesn't sound like disengagement...

So why does Prime Minister Sharon continue to mislead Israelis and the world into accepting the expulsion of Jews from Gaza, it won't lead to true separation anyways?

As long as any Israeli military presence continues in Gaza, the terror groups will continue justifying their attacks on Israel, as "fighting the occupation". And if Israel removes it's troops completely, they are likely to "create" some new reason to continue shooting rockets. Hizbollah has done the same in Lebanon -- refusing to accept the UN recognized Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon -- Hizbollah continues to use the "Sheba Farms" as a justification to attack Israel whenever it wants to.

Then again, if Israeli troops leave Gaza and parts of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) never to return, how will they prevent increasingly deadly rocket attacks on Israeli population centers, possibly in the future, with nuclear, chemical or biological warheads?

Will the date June 28th one day be seen as the turning point? Will Israelis eventually see it as their 9/11?

Ariel Natan Pasko is an independent analyst & consultant. He has a Master's Degree in International Relations & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites, in newspapers, and can be read at: www.geocities.com/ariel_natan_pasko (c) 2004/5764 Pasko

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