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TEL AVIV – The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group yesterday fired two missiles from positions in the West Bank, which borders Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Israel’s international airport, Al Aqsa sources told WND.
The attack marks a major escalation in Palestinian violence and comes as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is attempting to push through a plan to withdraw from most of Judea and Samaria, the biblical Jewish lands now known as the West Bank. Critics of the withdrawal plan have warned it will place Palestinian terror groups within rocket-firing range of major Israeli population centers.
Brigades leaders in Jenin in northern Samaria said they fired the two rockets yesterday from their town aimed at an Israeli military installation about a mile away. The leaders said the projectiles were Bahaa rockets, named after Saed Bahaa, an Al Aqsa Brigades member killed last week in an Israeli anti-terror operation.
A source close to the Brigades said the rockets actually were Jenin 1’s, a less advanced Qassam rocket that can travel about one mile. Qassams are improvised steel rockets, about four feet in length, filled with explosives and fuel. They can travel between one and four miles depending on the sophistication of the particular rocket.
A spokesperson for the IDF told WND the army was not aware of any rockets fired yesterday from Jenin. The IDF has in the past denied rockets were launched from northern Samaria only to later release information rockets had indeed been fired from the area.
Al Aqsa leaders previously told WND they fired eight rockets from the Jenin area in December and January aimed at nearby Jewish communities. The IDF at first denied any rockets were fired, but later confirmed in January it found rockets that had been launched from northern Samaria, likely from Jenin.
Security analysts maintain publicity about rocket attacks from northern Samaria likely would generate criticism of Olmert’s plan to withdraw from the territory. Olmert officials last week said they also are drafting a plan to evacuate eastern sections of Jerusalem.
In a recent WND interview, Abu Oudai, Al Aqsa’s Judea and Samaria rocket coordinator, warned his group has stockpiled advanced rockets in the area to be launched against major Israeli cities.
He said his group developed a new rocket, Arafat-1, which can travel farther than the Qassam.
“The Arafat can reach every goal we want all over the enemy state. … I don’t need to tell you that the aerial distance from Jenin to Netanya, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities is not big without telling what are all our plans concerning hitting Israeli settlements (in Judea and Samaria). We can reach any point inside Israel, but I will not mention what are the regions we are ready to shoot from.
“With the help of Allah we will launch these rockets regularly and there will no calm, no cease-fire until the occupation leaves our land,” Abu Oudai said.
Since Israel evacuated the Gaza Strip last summer, terror organizations have been regularly firing rockets from the area aimed at adjacent Jewish communities. Three Qassam rockets were fired from Gaza yesterday. Fourteen were launched last week.
The IDF has retaliated with artillery fire against Gaza launch sites and targeted aerial strikes against suspected rocket factories, but the current retaliation policy has failed to stop or even slow the number of missiles being launched from Gaza, prompting calls from some in the defense establishment to reoccupy parts of the territory.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon previously warned any rockets fired by Palestinian groups from within Judea or Samaria would provoke an “unprecedented” military response. The IDF so far has not carried out any large-scale anti-rocket operation in response to the rockets it admitted were fired from northern Samaria in December and January.
Asked if he feared Israel’s threatened massive retaliation to his planned rocket firings, Abu Oudai told WND, “Israel already has used all its tools. Tanks, aircrafts, assassinations and everything it could use. But we are still here and still fighting. We do not get excited from the Israeli threats. What can be this unprecedented reaction? They have already tried everything.”