03.24.2011 – Israel under fire – escalation in rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza

24 Mar 2011
The current escalation began on March 19 when exceptional barrages of over 50 120mm-mortar shells targeted villages in the western Negev.
Home in southern Israel hit by Kassam rocket, Mar 26, 2011 (Photo: Rafael Ben-Ari/ Chameleons Eye)
Home in southern Israel hit by Kassam rocket, Mar 26, 2011 (Photo: Rafael Ben-Ari/ Chameleons Eye)
On Saturday, March 19, terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired some 50 mortars into southern Israel, landing in the areas of Eshkol, Sha’ar Hanegev, and Sdot Hanegev. These attacks – which represent an unprecedented increase in the projectile fire emanating from the Gaza Strip since the end of Operation Cast Lead in 2009 – injured two Israeli civilians in a Kibbutz in Eshkol and caused damage to property. Launched from the Gaza Strip with the clear intention of targeting and terrorizing Israeli civilians, these mortars exploded in and around populated areas. The Hamas terrorist organization has claimed responsibility for these attacks.

On Tuesday afternoon (March 22), mortars were fired from northern Gaza towards the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council in southern Israel. In response, the IDF fired mortars at the launching point in Gaza. It appears that Palestinians uninvolved in the original mortar firing were injured by these mortars.

On Tuesday evening (March 22), Israeli Air Force aircraft attacked a cell of four terrorists in the Gaza Strip as they attempted to launch a Grad rocket towards Israel. A hit was identified and the IAF planes returned to their base safely. The terrorists were attempting to launch the Grad rocket a short time after another Grad rocket fell in open territory in Ashkelon, causing no injuries or damage.

The IDF regrets the harm caused to these uninvolved Palestinians. However, the IDF wishes to emphasize that it is the terrorist organization Hamas that chose to launch mortars from amongst the civilian population, using them as human shields. The following day, the IDF’s Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration coordinated the transfer of an 8-year-old Palestinian boy from the Gaza Strip to Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot after he was injured by Israeli mortar fire.

On Tuesday night (March 22), a Grad missile which was fired from the Gaza Strip landed 5 km south of the center of Ashdod – a port city in southern Israel with a population of over 200,000. The following day, Israeli Air Force aircraft targeted a rocket launching device in the northern Gaza Strip from which a Grad missile was fired at Ashdod last night. A hit was confirmed.

On Wednesday morning (March 23) at around 5:30 a.m, a Grad rocket fired from Gaza landed in the city of Beer Sheba, causing damage to infrastructure and a residential building. One man was injured by shrapnel and transfered to the Soroka Hospital. Three other people were treated by rescue forces for shock.

Two Grad rockets fired from the Gaza Strip landed on Thursday (March 24) in open territory in the Ashdod area and the Eshkol Regional Council. Since Thursday morning, six other rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel, causing no damage or injuries.

On Saturday (March 26), three Kassam rockets were fired at Israeli territory, one causing severe damage to a home in the Eshkol Regional Council area.

In response to the barrage of Grad rockets, Kassam rockets and mortar shells fired from Gaza at the Israeli home front in the south, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) has targeted smuggling tunnels and terror activity sites in the Gaza Strip.

“Iron Dome” system to be deployed in southern Israel

Photo: IDF Spokesperson

March 25: The IDF Chief of the General Staff has ordered, in accordance with government directives, to deploy the Iron Dome system in southern Israel in the coming days.

The Iron Dome is considered a significant achievement of the Israeli security industry, at the moment in the process of assimilating into the air force and to being put into operational use. The system is currently under evaluation. It will be used to respond to the threat of rockets and mortar shells fired at Israel. Its capabilities including attacking, alerting and protection.

The decision to accelerate the deployment of the system was made in light of recent events in southern Israel and according to security assessments. The deployment will not be permanent, allowing the systems to be moved between areas according to evolving security assessments.

PM Netanyahu at the weekly Cabinet meeting (Sunday, 27 March 2011):

“Israel has been under missile threat for 20 years, since the Gulf War. I do not want to foster the illusion that Iron Dome, which we are deploying today, for the first time, will provide a complete or comprehensive answer.

Iron Dome is still in the experimental stage and we do not have the possibility of deploying batteries to protect every home, school, base and installation. The true answer to the missile threat is a combination of aggressive and deterrent measures, protective measures and a strong stand by the Government and the public.

In any case, Israel holds Hamas responsible for everything fired at us from the Gaza Strip.”