8.21.2011 – Israel fears further escalation in south

Man killed, dozens injured in rocket attacks in worst day seen in southern Israel since Operation Cast Lead. Defense officials say Gaza terror groups must suffer heavy blow. ‘We have to restore deterrence, make price clear to other side’Hanan Greenberg

Published: 08.21.11, 02:56 / Israel News
The defense establishment is preparing to escalate its response against Israel since one man killed, a woman critically injured and several people sustaining light to moderate wounds in a rocket attack on the city of Beersheba. A two-week-old baby was lightly injured in Ofakim.
Defense establishment officials fear that the extent of rocket attacks from Gaza will increase Sunday. Due to the situation, the National Emergency Management Authority storage facilities will be opened in the morning

זירת הנפילה בבאר-שבע (צילום: אוהד צויגנברג)
Scene of rocket attack in Beersheba (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)

While the government’s eight top ministers were holding a meeting into the night to discuss retaliation options, Israel Defense Forces officials said terror organization must suffer a heavy blow.

“We must restore deterrence, make it perfectly clear to the other side that it will pay a heavy price for hurting Israel’s citizens,” said a senior military source.

The IDF recently completed the preparation of different plans of action against Hamas and the rest of the terror organizations in the Strip – from surgical strike to a wide-scale operation.

Security sources say a variety of options for action were raised during weekend discussions, all focusing on the desire to boost Israel’s response.

“There’s no escape. We can’t ignore rockets fired at a civilian population,” one of the officials stressed.
טנקים בדרום. לפני פעולה? (צילום: AFP)
Tanks in south. Ahead of operation? (Photo: AFP)

According to estimates, the first stage will see the Israel Air Force increase its air strikes in the Strip. The IDF possesses a wide “bank” of targets, and it’s quite possible that during the current round, especially in light of Hamas’ growing involvement in the rocket fire, the army will hit targets it has avoided attacking so far.

Targeting the leaders of Hamas and the other terror organizations is also on the agenda, and may be the second stage of the Israeli response.

Military sources have admitted that this is a complicated period in light of the developments expected next month upon the Palestinian statehood declaration, and therefore “all considerations must be examined” before every operation.

 Dozens injured over weekend

According to police officials, Saturday was the worst day in terms of the number of rockets fired into Israel since Operation Cast Lead two and a half years ago – almost 60 rockets and mortar shells in 24 hours.

Massive police forces have been deployed in the southern cities and are working to maintain the citizens’ safety.

Dozens of people injured from the rocket fire were evacuated to hospitals over the weekend, including three illegal Palestinian residents, who were hurt while hiding in an orchard near Ashdod.

Ten people injured from a Grad rocket fired at Ashdod on Friday morning were evacuated to the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot. Eight of the injured have already been released, while the other two are still hospitalized in serious and moderate condition.

Three people were evacuated to the same hospital on Saturday, and another woman was rushed to the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva.

The Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba is still treating six Israelis who were injured in the terror attack on the Egyptian border. Three people, two of them children, were evacuated to the hospital on Saturday following a rocket attack on Ofakim.

The hospital is also treating a woman in critical condition, three people who were seriously wounded and a person lightly hurt in Saturday evening’s rocket attack on Beersheba.

Attila Somfalvi, Ilana Curiel and Neri Brener contributed to this report