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Political Clashes Over Ongoing Rocket Attacks in the South

by Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

As PA terrorists continue to fire rockets at the Jewish towns of the Negev, government, army and local leaders spar over who is to blame.

Palestinian Authority terrorists fired another Kassam rocket towards Ashkelon Wednesday afternoon, the latest in what has become an almost daily occurrence over the past two weeks. The attacks persist despite declarations by Defense Minister Amir Peretz that the IDF is taking harsh measures, and reaching the “upper limit” of what it can do in retaliation.

The prime minister, Ehud Olmert, today harshly criticized the mayor of the Negev city of Sderot, which has absorbed more than a thousand PA rockets in the past year. Olmert charged that Sderot has already received all of the required funds for defending and strengthening the city’s population, but that the mayor prefers to bellyache to the media over his city’s sad state.

Mayor Eli Moyal stated in response that more government funding is not the issue at stake. “I don’t need Olmert’s money,” Moyal said, explaining his demand that the government act to prevent the launching of the rockets at Sderot at their source, in the PA-controlled Gaza Strip.

Moyal’s position received unexpected support from the IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, who implied today that government decisions were essentially hampering the battle to eliminate the rocket threat. “The political level could make different decisions,” Lt. Gen. Halutz said, without elaborating, according to a report on IDF Radio.

Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, a resident of Ashkelon, told the government cabinet shortly before the Wednesday afternoon Kassam attack on his hometown that the government is “not providing a proper answer to the residents of Sderot and the communities surrounding Gaza. We must hit where is needed and exact a price. The government needs to reconsider all of its policies toward Gaza in light of the continuation of the Kassam attacks.”

Defense Minister Peretz responded, “Our response to each firing will be unequivocal and harsh.”

Lt. Gen. Halutz, who last year told Voice of Israel Radio that Kassam rocket attacks can be reduced but not eliminated, said Wednesday, “Even the firing of one Kassam is unacceptable to us.”

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