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Quick Takes: News From Israel You May Have Missed

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Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been firing improved, more deadly rockets into nearby Jewish communities and have recently manufactured projectiles that can travel deeper into the Jewish state, placing hundreds of thousands more Israelis within firing range, a spokesman for the Islamic Jihad terror group told WorldNetDaily.

During the past week Sderot, a city of nearly 25,000 Jews about three miles from the Gaza border, was subject to a barrage of more than 130 rockets, causing injuries and scoring direct hits on several homes. A vacated synagogue, a gas station, an empty restaurant and a school were also hit.

Sderot residents and Israeli security sources said that while in the past upwards of 80 percent of Palestinian rockets fired from Gaza landed outside Jewish cities, the recent attacks have been more accurate – with the vast majority landing inside Sderot and other targets. The rockets are also more deadly, and more accurate, the sources say,

Abu Muhammad, a Gaza-based militant and spokesperson for Islamic Jihad, said his group and others have built rockets that can travel up to 14.3 miles (23 kilometers) into Israel from Gaza. The new claim suggests that a dozen more Israeli cities would be within range of the rockets, bringing to about 250,000 the number of Israelis that would live under rocket threat from Gaza.

Abu Muhammad said his group’s goal is to “turn Sderot into a ghost town and from there fire deeper and deeper into the Zionist heart.”

Sderot residents complained of “inaccurate” international media coverage of the Palestinian rocket fire. They said the news media were painting the rockets as homemade Palestinians projectiles that merely disturb regular life but don’t cause injury.

A Real Gaza Offensive?

In the face of repeated rocket attacks, Israel this week continued a restrained offensive against Gaza-based terror groups, firing missiles at Hamas rocket facilities and taking out convoys carrying Hamas members and weapons.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s security cabinet threatened to expand targeted killings to include Hamas political leaders and other methods to “intensify operational measures.”

But according to military sources, the IDF’s military operations in Gaza are not expected to deal a severe blow to the rocket infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.

“The response is simply so Olmert can say we responded,” said a military source.

The sources said the army has not been authorized to launch any major ground invasion into Gaza and is only allowed to hit select Hamas military installations after receiving direct approval from either Olmert or Defense Minister Amir Peretz.

The military sources said that to dent Gaza’s rocket capabilities, the army estimates it would need to mount a massive ground offensive to confiscate some of the hundreds of tons of weaponry smuggled into Gaza in recent months, and temporarily reoccupy swaths of territory in the northern Strip, where most rocket attacks have originated.

The army also said it recommended stationing troops along the Egypt-Gaza border, the site of rampant weapons smuggling.

The border was controlled by Israel until the Jewish state’s evacuation of Gaza in August 2005.

More Guns on Tap

The United States last week sent diplomatic messages to the Palestinians stating that the U.S. would, if requested, send further aid to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah organization to bolster the group in its conflict with Hamas.

American and Israeli diplomatic sources said Major General Keith Dayton, the U.S. security coordinator for the Gaza Strip and West Bank, passed messages to Abbas that the U.S. would aid Fatah with assault rifles and ammunition. The sources also said that Dayton urged Israel to provide assistance to bolster Abbas’s security forces in Gaza – particularly Force 17, Abbas’ security detail, which also serves as a de facto police force.

This is despite the fact that many members of Force 17 make no secret of being members of the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades as well. The Jewish state regularly arrests Force 17 members accused of carrying out shooting attacks against Israelis.

It was reported in this column that last week Hamas confiscated a shipment of American rifles sent to Fatah. Last Sunday, after a Fatah gunman shot a Hamas member, a Fatah convoy of three trucks was stopped by Hamas at a makeshift checkpoint at Dabit Circle, a northern Gaza town, according to Hamas sources. Hamas abducted 18 Fatah gunmen and seized stockpiles of American weapons that were in the vans, the sources said.

Hamas spokesperson Abu Oubaida told this column that his group has infiltrated Fatah forces and will obtain future shipments of American weapons sent to Fatah.

Terrorist Media Invades Bethlehem

Al Qaeda training videos and literature were recently distributed to Palestinians in Bethlehem, according to local sources.

The mass-produced materials, the sources said, included an al Qaeda video in which the global jihad group teaches the viewer how to behead “infidels” and kidnap civilians and soldiers.

Palestinian security officials in Bethlehem said some al Qaeda-like materials were recently confiscated from local Palestinians, but they fiercely denied the presence of al Qaeda in Bethlehem.

“This is the kind of stuff we see all the time in the Middle East. It’s run-of-the-mill al Qaeda material downloaded from the Internet and given out by some civilian sympathizers,” said a Palestinian security official. “It’s not a big deal.”

Israel controlled Bethlehem, located about nine miles from Jerusalem, until 1995, when it ceded the territory to the PA as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords. Israeli security officials said they did not have information about the presence of al Qaeda-linked groups in Bethlehem, but pointed to what they called the “model” of global jihad groups entering territory evacuated by the Jewish state.

Aaron Klein is Jerusalem bureau chief for WorldNetDaily.com. He appears throughout the week on leading U.S. radio programs.

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About the Author: Aaron Klein is Jerusalem bureau chief and senior reporter for WorldNetDaily.com. He is also host of an investigative radio program on New York's 770-WABC Radio, the largest talk radio station in the U.S., every Sunday between 2-4 p.m (CHANGE TO 7-9 p.m.). His website is KleinOnline.com


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