by Ezra HaLevi
(IsraelNN.com) Arab terrorists in northern Gaza fired five Kassam rockets Friday night into Sderot and Ashkelon as Jewish families came home from synagogues and sat down for their Sabbath meals. One rocket scored a direct hit on a factory in the Ashkelon industrial zone causing extensive damage. No injuries were reported.
At the sound of the advance alert system, western Negev Israelis ducked, took cover, and scrambled for their reinforced room or the many concrete bunkers that have been placed throughout the once-quaint townâ€™s streets.
After seven years of shelling from Gaza, Israel is now considering a response: to turn off the electricity to Gaza for two-hour increments following rocket attacks.
At a Friday-afternoon meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the latter condemned shutting off electricity following rocket attacks. Abbas called the move â€œcollective punishment.â€
A short time later, the barrage of rockets from Gaza began. The electricity stayed on.
Dep. Defense Minister Changes His Tune
Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai (Labor), who outlined the proposal of cutting power to Gaza, significantly modified his description of the new policy in an interview on Saturday. Vilnai said the decision to cut electricity periodically is aimed at â€œcontinuing and completing the disengagement from Gaza,â€ â€“ using the term coined by Ariel Sharon for Israelâ€™s withdrawal of the army and eviction of 9,000 Jewish residents from the region.
Vilnai, facing accusations from within his party and from leftist groups like Peace Now (see below) that the move is too hawkish, now says that it is not a case of collective punishment, but a step toward encouraging Gazan independence. â€œI know that the move will not prevent rocket fire,â€ Vilnai said. He explained that the move is simply the reduction of fuel exports into Gaza and the scaling back of electricity very gradually to allow Gaza to begin producing its own electricity or directing more in from Egypt. Vilnai said the power outages would begin Sunday or Monday.
Peace Now: Don’t Cut Off Gaza Power
The Peace Now leftist organization demanded over the weekend from Defense Minister Ehud Barak that he rescind the authorization he gave last week to begin cutting off power to Gaza after Kassam attacks. â€œWe believe this to be an illegal, immoral act of collective punishment,â€ the group said in a letter to Barak.
In addition, the group said, cutting off electricity will not halt the firing of Kassams, but instead raise the level of hatred of Israel among Gaza Arabs and give them even more incentive to fire rockets.
Shooting Attack in Shomron
Terrorists opened fire on a Jewish driver on Saturday night near the village of A-Zawiya in Samaria. The driver was not wounded in the attack, and managed to reach a nearby checkpoint and report the incident.
Shooting attacks have become increasingly frequent in Judea and Samaria, where Israel is removing checkpoints and pardoning terrorists as political â€œgesturesâ€ to the Palestinian Authority. A shooting attack last week badly wounded a young soldier and lightly wounded a second victim.
Women and Child Killed When Terrorist Bomb Detonates Early
A southern Gaza home was blown up in what PA reports are calling a â€œwork accidentâ€ â€“ a euphemism for an explosion caused by the early detonation of a bomb intended for Israelis. At least two Arab women and a four-year-old girl were killed in the blast, which took place in Khan Younis, adjacent to the former site of the Jewish town of Nâ€™vei Dekalim. Two other children were wounded in the blast, which caused the front of the house to collapse and damaged a nearby home as well.
Hamas officials confirmed that explosives belonging to a local terrorist group had detonated prematurely. The IDF regularly finds explosives and bomb-making labs in private residences.
Counter-Terror Operations Friday
IDF forces hit seven terrorists during operations inside northern and southern Gaza on Friday.
Thursday night, two soldiers were lightly wounded in an operation in northern Gaza.
The IDF reports a marked increase in the use of anti-tank missiles by Gaza terrorists. The smuggling of weapons from Egypt to Gaza has been ongoing since the Kadima party-led government withdrew from the area in 2005. When Hamas took control of Gaza earlier this year, smuggling intensified and surfaced out into the open.