This week terrorists from Gaza fired kassam rockets at Israel for the first time since the conclusion of the Operation Pillar of Defense operation in late 2012. One rocket hit the industrial area within Ashkelon, causing some damage to a road, while a second one hit an open field near the city. These rockets represent a blatant violation of Hamas’ cease-fire agreement with Israel, which stated quite clearly that Gazan terror groups should refrain from firing qassam rockets into Israel. Israeli experts have asserted that the Palestinians in Gaza are attempting to show solidarity with Palestinian rioters in Judea and Samaria.
The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organizations’ military wing, claimed responsibility for this terror attack. In a public statement, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade claimed that it was in retaliation for the death of Arafat Jaradat, a Palestinian terrorist who died while serving time in an Israeli prison. The Shin Bet had asserted that Jaradat had been arrested for his involvement in a rock throwing incident in which an Israeli citizen had been wounded. Regardless of Palestinian assertions, the autopsy had found that there were no external signs of trauma on Jaradat’s body, apart from some bruises that could have been caused by Israeli efforts to save his life, and that it was impossible to determine the cause of his death. Nevertheless, Palestinian officials are using the incident as an excuse in order to violently target Israel.
The Color Red Alert did not sound in Ashkelon following this qassam rocket attack, since the rocket was slated to fall in an open area. As a result of this rocket attack, however, Iron Dome batteries have been redeployed to the Ashkelon area. The IDF asserted that “Iron Dome batteries are deployed and redeployed according to situation assessments and operational needs.” Amos Gilad, director of policy and political military affairs at Israel’s Defense Ministry, declared, “Overall, our deterrence in the south is in place and peace in the area has been maintained, thanks to the IDF’s successful operation. We do, however, have to remain vigilant to ensure no threat arises. This was a single event, but we have to make sure that peace and quiet are maintained.” Nevertheless, Israeli security officials are concerned that the recent unrest in Judea and Samaria may prompt Gazan terror groups to launch more rocket attacks.
Regardless, according to Gilad, “The PA is walking a thin line: also inciting violence and also not wanting things to get out of control. The problem is that they’re aiming for controlled violence, but it can get out of control. They want to project strength ahead of the Obama visit, so they’re lighting a fire under the prisoner issue — which is a popular issue on the Palestinian street.” While the PA does not feel like a major escalation is in their interests, PA leaders are aiming for a mini-intifada in order to convince Obama to pressure Israel in order to make concessions to them during Obama’s upcoming visit to the Holy Land.
Gilad also claimed that it is wrong for people to speak about Palestinian prisoners, asserting, “We’re talking about terrorists, murderers, people who have killed Israelis.” He also stated that Palestinian officials deliberately determined the outcome of the autopsy of Arafat Jaradat before it was completed, in order to “incite the street to violence.” Jaradat’s death came at a time when there were already increased levels of tension between Israelis and Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, with massive protests in solidarity with four Palestinian terrorists on hunger strike. The recent rocket attack on Ashkelon was merely another example of such an escalation, orchestrated by the Palestinian leadership.
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By Rachel Avraham