JERUSALEM – A research center affiliated with Hamas has published a study concluding the Palestinian group is likely to launch rockets against towns in Judea and Samaria after Israel withdraws its Jewish communities from Gaza.
The study follows an announcement last month on Hamas’ official website that the group will continue its war to destroy Israel by launching Qassam rockets at Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and communities in Judea and Samaria.
According to the Al-Mustaqbal Research Center in Gaza, among the likely scenarios after Israel evacuates Gaza Aug. 17 is for Hamas to “[massively] use upgraded Qassam rockets, the strategic weapons of the future Palestinian-Israeli conflict” against Jewish communities near Gaza and in Judea and Samaria.
Al-Mustaqbal is headed by a Palestinian professor, and, according to the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at Israel’s Center for Special Studies, is known to publish surveys and studies which informally reflect Hamas attitudes.
The Al-Mustaqbal study, published last month and translated by the Center for Special Studies, predicts four possible scenarios following the Gaza evacuation:
A brief period of calm in the Palestinian-Israeli confrontation, which Palestinians will use for a thorough examination of their internal affairs. According to the study, the United States and Israel will want to supervise this process.
A limited, restrained conflict. The study emphasizes the use of Qassam rockets, predicting difficulties in carrying out suicide bombing attacks in Judea and Samaria because Israel’s security fence in the area will have been completed.
Increased anarchy in Gaza and a confrontation between the Palestinian Authority and the various Palestinian organizations. Hamas states in the study it is against a civil war, but if the group has no choice it will “not hesitate to confront the PA”
A renewal of the overall confrontation with Israel, which will include the massive use of upgraded Qassam rockets near Gaza and in Judea and Samaria, the “strategic weapons” of the future Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Detailing the scenario in which Hamas increases its rocket attacks after the Gaza evacuation, the study states “Israeli communities close to the border with the Gaza Strip will come under attack. … Qassam rockets acquired from the Gaza Strip may be used in the West Bank, where they could easily reach Israeli population centers.”
Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been launching an average of three rockets or mortars per day at Gaza’s Gush Katif slate of Jewish communities. Hamas this week also shot 3 Qassams toward a massive Israeli protest taking place in the Negev town of Sderot, a few miles outside of Gaza.
As WND reported, Hamas last month announced on its website after Israel’s Gaza withdrawal the group will begin the next phase of its war to destroy the Jewish state by launching Qassam rockets at Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and communities in Judea and Samaria instead of focusing on suicide bombings.
“Afula, Hadera, Beit She’an, Netanya, Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities will all fall within the range of the Qassam rocket. … The implication is that this rocket, which was previously looked upon with disdain by many, will serve as the weapon of choice in the coming period of time, as the acts of suicide martyrdom served as the weapon of choice during all the previous years,” the Hamas site stated.
The site continued: “From a technical standpoint, the Zionist army presently does not have any means to intercept an airborne Qassam rocket. The only possibility, therefore, of stopping the fire, if possible, is to strike the operating cells or the rockets themselves, a moment before they are launched.
“A pre-emptive strike against the attacking cell is a complicated and almost impossible affair. According to the assessments of the Zionist army, the members of the resistance bring the missiles in vans and unload them under the cover of agricultural activity. This makes them more difficult to expose. Furthermore, the timeframe available to the Zionist forces is a quarter of an hour at the most. It takes that long for the resistance members to aim the rockets and activate them at a distance using an electronic timer. To foil the action, the army needs to keep combat helicopters in the air for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is, therefore, highly bothersome.”
Hamas went on to explain that to fire on Jerusalem and other Israeli cities, the terror group doesn’t need to improve the range of the current Qassam rocket it uses.
“Jerusalem and other cities will all fall within the range of the Qassam 1 rocket, and there will not even be need for the Qassam 2 rocket.”
Israeli retaliatory raids will not establish deterrence against missile launchings, Hamas stated.
“The only solution, as far as the Zionist establishment is concerned, is severe retaliation for every Qassam rocket launched, in order to teach the Palestinians a lesson and make them think a thousand times before launching any kind of rocket. [But] have all the previous mass murders and the acts of hostility carried out as collective punishment quenched the fire of resistance, or, rather, have they served as a catalyst for the increasing sophistication of the creative methods of the resistance [factions]?”
Israeli security sources say Hamas has been using time gained from a cease-fire agreement signed in February by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to stockpile weapons and extend its Qassam manufacturing capabilities to Judea and Samaria.
In March, the Israeli Defense Forces destroyed a large Qassam laboratory in the Samaria village of Al-Yamoun. Earlier, the army arrested 11 members of a Hamas cell in Samaria who admitted during interrogation to producing Qassam rockets and constructing a laboratory for the manufacturing of heavy explosives.
Qassams are relatively unsophisticated steel rockets, about four feet in length, filled with explosives and fuel. The rockets lack a guidance system and are launched by terrorists in nearby towns who reportedly use the rocket’s trajectory and known travel distance to aim at a particular Jewish community.
About 20 percent of Qassams do not explode upon impact.
“As far as rockets go, they may be low tech, but if they land in a population center, they’re incredibly deadly,” Ami Shaked, chief security coordinator for Gaza’s Jewish communities, told WND.
Of particular concern for the Israeli Defense Forces is the development of longer-range Qassam missiles that could strike Jerusalem if launched from certain West Bank areas.
In August 2003, a Qassam traveled five miles from the Gaza Strip into Israel and landed near Ashkelon, the farthest a Qassam rocket has penetrated.
Hamas also recently started manufacturing a new rocket, the Nasser 3, capable of reaching farther than even the updated Qassam, security sources said.