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Quick Takes: News From Israel You May Have Missed

Hamas is “very satisfied” with reports here that some Israelis in communities near the Gaza Strip are ready to flee their rocket-plagued towns, while students reportedly have been skipping school for fear of being caught in regular Palestinian attacks, a senior leader of Hamas’s so-called “military wing” told WorldNetDaily in an interview yesterday.

“The importance of what is happening in Sderot proves to the Palestinians, especially those who say rockets bring no results, that rocket attacks do bring big benefits,” said Abu Abdullah, who is considered one of the most important operational members of Hamas’s Izzedine al-Kassam Martyrs Brigades.

“We are working to improve our rockets to hit further and cause more Jews to evacuate,” said the terror leader, speaking to WND from Gaza.

Sderot is an Israeli city of about 20,000 located nearly three miles from the Gaza Strip border. Since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza last summer, hundreds of rockets have slammed into the town and other nearby Jewish communities, fired by Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip. One Sderot woman was killed and two men seriously wounded within the past few days.

According to reports, upwards of 50 percent of Sderot’s students have been skipping school the last few months as the rocket attacks intensified. The city’s educators said students are suffering from anxiety and have had difficulty preparing for exams.

“Our goal is to evacuate neighborhoods in Sderot and Ashkelon,” Abu Abdullah said. “I am sure in [the] next months it will not only be Ashkelon but also Ashdod [a major Israeli port city about 20 miles from Gaza] that will be our target.”

The terror leader scoffed at pinpoint Israeli operations carried out in the northern Gaza Strip aimed at stopping rocket attacks.

“Even if they kill hundreds of our fighters, there is no way [the Israelis] can stop our attacks. While Israel was acting all over in Beit Hanoun, we shot many rockets from Beit Hanoun using new techniques of shooting I will not tell you about.”

Olmert Rejects Large-Scale Assault Plan

According to senior military officials, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert continues to reject military plans outlined to him for a large-scale assault in the Gaza Strip that would include re-occupying parts of the territory.

The officials said that according to IDF assessments, the best options to stop the daily rocket fire from Gaza into nearby Jewish communities and to halt the regular smuggling of weapons from neighboring Egypt include drafted plans to retake parts of Gaza.

They said other options presented to the Israeli government for a large-scale Gaza assault focusing on dismantling the terror infrastructure inside the Gaza Strip have also been rejected by Olmert in favor of surgical strikes.

The officials charged that Olmert has been restraining the IDF from carrying out what the army believes are operations “crucial” for Israel’s security.

“Occupation of the northern Gaza Strip will inhibit a lot of rocket fire, but we know we would need to retake most of the central and northern Strip to completely stop the fire,” an IDF source said.

The Israeli army has largely responded to the regular rocket onslaught with artillery fire aimed at Kassam launch sites in Gaza and occasional surgical air strikes at rocket launchers. Over the past few months the IDF has also carried out pinpoint ground raids of select Gaza hot zones – but has failed to stop or even slow the Kassam rocket attacks.

Zachary Baumel Turns 46

The parents of a Brooklyn-born Israeli soldier captured by Syrian forces 23 years ago solemnly marked the birthday of their missing son this weekend, petitioning the Israeli government to do more to work for the release of the soldier, whom they believe is still alive.

Zachary Baumel, captured in Lebanon in 1982, turned 46 last weekend, meaning he has now spent more time in captivity than in freedom – if he is indeed still alive.

Baumel, a dual American-Israeli citizen, was taken along with two Israeli members of his tank crew during Israel’s foray into Lebanon. All three were photographed in Damascus on the day of their capture, and several eyewitnesses, including a Time magazine reporter, said they watched a parade in which the tank and crew were led through a major street in Damascus and flaunted to cheering crowds. The ceremony was the last occasion on which the soldiers were seen publicly.

In March 2005, Zachary’s father, Yona Baumel, told WND that sources he cultivated in Syria told him they visited his son that year at a Syrian military installation just north of the Iraqi border. Baumel was also given a book that contains coded messages Baumel says could have been written only by his son.

Syrian officials since then have given conflicting reports to the media, including statements claiming Baumel and his three Israeli crewmen were still alive. Also, Israeli diplomatic sources told WND that Syrian officials have implied through third-party messengers that Baumel is still alive.

Prior to the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, PLO leader Yasir Arafat presented Israel with half of Baumel’s dog tag and claimed he had information on the missing soldier’s whereabouts. Arafat later refused to release further details.

Aaron Klein is Jerusalem bureau chief for WorldNetDaily.com. He appears throughout the week on America’s top radio programs.

About the Author: Aaron Klein is a New York Times bestselling author and senior reporter for WND.com. He is also host of an investigative radio program on New York's 970 AM Radio on Sundays from 7 to 9 p.m. Eastern. His website is KleinOnline.com.


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