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Palestinian rocket attack on Ashkelon “a strategic threat” — Israeli official


Gaza : A senior official in the Israeli prime minister’s office characterized yesterday’s rocket attack on Ashkelon as “very problematic” and “a strategic threat,” and said it showed once again the urgency of stopping the arms smuggling from Sinai into the Gaza Strip.

In a statement published Friday in The Jerusalem Post, the unnamed official said, “We are concerned that the types of weapons coming into Gaza are giving them new strategic potential. This was not the first rocket of this type to be fired on Israel, but we are concerned that unless decisive action is taken there could be more of this.” He added, “If we see ongoing smuggling into Gaza of munitions and weaponry, then this a strategic threat for a quarter of a million people in the South who are within the range of the rockets.” The official said the government could not sit “idly by,” and warned — without mentioning anything about plans for stepped up military action as a result of the rocket attack — that the “continued flow of weaponry and armaments into Gaza from Sinai is an escalatory phenomenon and could lead to a further destabilization in the South.” While saying that there was no sense of “crisis” as a result of the rocket attack, the official said it was clear that the current level of weapons smuggling could not go on, and that “actions have to be taken.” He did not elaborate.

The military wings of Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees had claimed joint responsibility for the attack, which took place yesterday. According to an Israeli Army spokesman, the attack did not cause any loss of life or damages.

Last night, Israel’s Channel 10 TV had claimed that Palestinian factions had managed to smuggle 100 Katyusha rockets into Gaza Strip, which it said threatened the safety of Ashkelon, one of Israel’s largest cities.