Hamas terrorists with Qassam rocket (Photo:Isracast.com)

JERUSALEM – Hamas is “very satisfied” with reports here some Israelis in communities near the Gaza Strip are ready to flee their rocket-plagued towns while students reportedly have been skipping school for fear of being caught in regular Palestinian attacks, a senior leader of Hamas’ so-called “military wing” told WND in an interview yesterday.

“The importance of what is happening in Sderot proves to the Palestinians, especially those who say rockets bring no results, that rocket attacks do bring big benefits,” said Abu Abdullah, who is considered one of the most important operational members of Hamas’ Izzedine al-Qassam Martyrs Brigades, Hamas’ declared military wing.

“We promise we will keep hitting them because this process (of launching rockets at Jewish communities) is starting to bring results. We are working to improve our rockets to hit further and cause more Jews to evacuate,” said the terror leader, speaking to WND from Gaza.

Children evacuated, students ‘traumatized’

Sderot is an Israeli city of about 20,000 located nearly three miles from the Gaza Strip border. Since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza last summer, hundreds of rockets have slammed into the town and other nearby Jewish communities fired by Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip.

Four rockets landed in Sderot yesterday and eight more landed nearby.

Qassam rockets have been hitting as far as the strategic port city of Ashkelon, about five miles from Gaza, which is home to large oil refineries and one of Israel’s most powerful electric generators.

Qassams are improvised steel rockets, about four feet long, filled with explosives and fuel. They can travel between one and five miles depending on the sophistication of the particular rocket

Last weekend, hundreds of Israeli youth were evacuated from Sderot for a “weekend reprieve” in the southern resort town of Eilat. The brief respite from Qassam rocket attacks was paid for by an Israeli billionaire.

Qassam attacks last week killed one Sderot woman and sheered the legs off an off-duty guard for Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz who resides in the town.

According to a report yesterday on the popular Ynet Israeli news website, upwards of 50 percent of Sderot’s students have been skipping school the last few months, as the rocket attacks have intensified.

At a town meeting of Sderot teachers yesterday, the city’s educators said many students are suffering from anxiety and have had difficulty preparing for exams.

“The situation is very problematic. We can hardly hold classes here,” said Miri Sassi, head of the Sderot municipality education department.

“When there are [rocket] attacks, the students are sometimes forced to study in the hallways, several classes at a time. This certainly isn’t a normal situation,” Sassi said.

‘Our attacks will soon oblige Israelis to evacuate’

Hamas’ Abu Abdullah told WND his group and other terror organizations are working to step up rocket attacks and target further inside Israel.

“Our goal is to evacuate neighborhoods in Sderot and Ashkelon,” he said. “I am sure in next months it will not only be Ashkelon but also Ashdod (a major Israeli port city about 20 miles from Gaza) that will be our target.”

Referring to a previous plan by the Israeli Defense Forces to use artillery units to create a civilian-free “sterile zone” in the northern Gaza areas most frequently used to launch attacks, Abu Abdullah said Palestinian rockets “will soon oblige Israelis to make their own sterile zones and evacuate their people.”

The terror leader scoffed at pinpoint Israeli operations carried out the last few months in the northern Gaza Strip aimed at stopping rocket attacks.

“Even if they kill hundreds of our fighters, there is no way [the Israelis] can stop our attacks. While Israel was acting all over in Beit Hanoun, we shot many rockets from Beit Hanoun using new techniques of shooting I will not tell you about.”

Earlier this month, the IDF invaded the northern Gaza city of Beit Hanoun and conducted house-to-house raids in certain key hot zones. Civilian areas in the densely-populated Palestinian city and nearby towns are regularly used to launch Qassams into Israel.

The Israeli army largely has responded to the regular rocket onslaught with artillery fire aimed at Qassam launch sites in Gaza and occasional surgical air strikes at rocket launchers.

The IDF the past few months has also carried out pinpoint ground raids of select Gaza areas but largely has failed to stop or even slow the Qassam rocket attacks.

Olmert ‘retraining’ Israeli military in Gaza

According to senior military officials speaking to WND last week, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has rejected military plans outlined to him for a large-scale assault in the Gaza Strip that would include reoccupation of parts of the territory.

The officials said according to IDF assessments, the best options to stop the daily rocket fire from Gaza into nearby Jewish communities and to halt the regular smuggling of weapons from neighboring Egypt include drafted plans to retake parts of Gaza.

They said other options presented to the Israeli government for a large-scale Gaza assault focusing on dismantling the terror infrastructure inside the Gaza Strip have also been rejected by Olmert in favor of surgical strikes.

The officials charged Olmert has been restraining the IDF from carrying out what the army believes are operations “crucial” for Israel’s security.

“Occupation of the northern Gaza Strip will inhibit a lot of rocket fire, but we know we would need to retake most of the central and northern Strip to completely stop the fire,” an IDF source said.

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