Palestinian missiles pound S. Israel for third day. Iron Dome at Rehovot
DEBKAfile Special Report October 31, 2011, 9:34 PM (GMT+02:00)
Beersheba, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Sderot were under missile attack from Gaza Monday night, Oct. 31 - hours after Israel's Home Front Minister Mattan Vilnai stated the Jihad Islami offensive launched Saturday was over. Seven missiles flew across the border on Day 3 of the assault, one intercepted in Beersheba by an Iron Dome battery. Sunday night Israeli mayors and council heads of key southern towns questioned the military assessment and kept schools closed. The continuing barrage and the army's decision to park an nterceptor battery in Rehovot, 32 kilometers from the Gaza Strip, proved they were right.
debkafile reported earlier Monday:
Israel is seeing its first ever crisis of confidence between a large normally docile civilian population and the heads of the armed forces.Mayors and local council heads representing the three quarters of-a-million inhabitants of the southern towns of Beersheba, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Kiryat Gat and Gan Yavneh, announced Sunday night, Oct. 31, that they don't believe the army's claim the missile offensive besetting them since Saturday is over.
Their schools stayed closed Monday, Oct. 31, in defiance of Home Front Command orders to lift the security restrictions that were imposed Saturday, when eight Israeli towns were pounded by scores of missiles, causing one death, dozens of injuries, substantial damage and the disruption of lives.
After a decade of missile violence from Gaza, the people still living there are saying enough is enough. They are fed up with being told that the military and powers-that-be know best how to handle the terrorism from the Gaza Strip. The missiles start flying whenever it pleases the Gazan Palestinians, a recurring blight which has seriously stunted the region's development.
debkafile's analysts attribute this newfound combativeness to seven causes.
1. Conflicting statements from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the army chiefs. Whereas Netanyahu stated Sunday that there is no ceasefire, army officers informed the South that a truce is in force and only needs time to take hold.
2. An Egyptian-brokered ceasefire was announced as going into effect Sunday morning, Oct. 30 at 0600 hours (after more than 35 missiles were fired Saturday). That whole day, the Palestinians continued their attacks which they divided into two stages: Soon after the 0600 deadline, they shot 15 Grads and mortar rounds into Israel and paused. In the evening, other round of 9 Qassam missiles hit Ashkelon regional council and Eshkol district.
3. The Iron Dome batteries, designed by Israel to intercept short-range rockets, failed to stop any Sunday, starting a wave of rumors across the South.
Few heeded the words of ex-security officers turned pundits who explained that even wonder systems have mechanical breakdowns. After the IDF issued a bulletin asserting the Jihad Islami had used "innovative firing technology" – without specifying what it was – many assumed that the Iron Dome had been neutralized – not by the technologically-challenged Palestinian extremists, but by specialist officers sent to Gaza but their masters in Tehran.
4. The brief television appearance of Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, answering a question with the words: "We shall do what needs to be done." As he spoke, sirens sounded and missiles and mortar shells exploded in Ashkelon, Sderot and other locations abutting on the Gaza Strip.
5. As Sunday wore on, the lack of clarity over government intentions deepened . The population realized that no substantial military operation was planned and their trouble was there to stay. A new truce deadline was said to be scheduled for 2200 Sunday night. The Palestinians chose that hour to resume their attacks on Ashkelon regional council and Eshkol district.
6. As Monday morning, Oct. 31 dawned with no sign that the radical jihad Islami intended to hold its fire, Home Front Minister Mattan Vilnai aired his first message to the South:
"This round is over," he said. "It was the work of the Jihad Islami alone. Hamas, which as Gaza Strip rulers are responsible, stood aside."
debkafile's military sources: This is a further Netanyahu government step to relieve Hamas of the burdens of responsibility for the violence emanating from its territory.
This anomalous situation arose from an unsatisfactory exchange between Jerusalem and Cairo. Egypt informed Jerusalem it had managed to persuade Jihad Islami to halt its missile offensive but not to stop its fellow radical Palestinian groups in the Gaza from shooting or even withhold the missiles for them to continue their assaults.
The prime minister and defense minister were reluctant to admit to the public that they had placed their reliance for the security of southern Israel on the military rulers of Egypt – and then only with partial success.
7. Community leaders in the south are preparing to take a leaf out of two popular campaigns which managed in recent weeks to shock the Netanyahu government out of its complacence: This week, 19 new bills were put before the Knesset's winter session in response to the demands of the Social Justice movement; and last week, the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit's release was achieved, partly as a result of popular pressure.
Several community leaders warned that the South is now on the march to finally break the devastating cycle of ceasefires imposed and violated at the convenience of the Palestinian aggressors and force the government and army to root out the plague of the Palestinian missiles once and for all.