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Hamas Thinks Israel will Soon Fold


Hamas' short term strategy is to keep escalating its attacks on Israel, in the belief that Israel will not be able to stand the pressure and will eventually agree to a ceasefire that limits its ability to operate in Gaza, according to Channel 2's veteran Arab affairs expert, Ehud Yaari.

He said Thursday that Hamas is asking the people of Gaza to pray for its fighters, and that many Gazans will be spending the entire night praying for success against Israel.

Violence Escalates Along Gaza Border

By VOA News, & Ha'aretz

As many as 20 Palestinians were killed and one Israeli was wounded on Thursday as Israeli air strikes targeted Palestinian militants in Gaza who fired rockets at southern Israel. Among the dead were four Palestinian children who were reportedly struck by a missile while playing football. However, the terrorists continued firing rockets at southern Israel, targeting the town of Sderot and the city of Ashkelon.

The stepped up Israeli attacks followed the death of an Israeli man late Wednesday. Israeli government spokesman David Baker said Israel would not tolerate the continued rocket attacks. "The current situation where Israeli towns and cities are hit with daily barrages is untenable for Israel and one we will not accept."

Speaking in Tokyo where he is on a state visit, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the rocket attacks could affect contacts with moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' government.

Abbas was quoted as saying he might support Palestinian armed "struggle" against Israel in the future. "At this time I am against armed struggle because we cannot achieve it," the Palestinian Authority president said in an interview with the Jordanian newspaper Ad-Dustour published Thursday, but added "things might be different in the coming stages."

Israel and Western powers have long praised Abbas for renouncing terrorist and guerrilla attacks as part of the Palestinian national cause. His comments in the newspaper appeared to run counter to that image.

In the interview, Abbas said that he had the "honor" of being the first member of Yasir Arafat's Fatah to fire a gun at Israelis, in 1965.

He further said that his faction "taught many in the region and world about resistance -- how and when it is useful, when it is not useful." Palestinians generally use the terms "struggle" and "resistance" for any type of attack against Israelis, whether they are soldiers or civilians.

Some commentators have speculated that Abbas, who relaunched peace talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last November, is under pressure to prove his "fighting credentials" in the face of fierce domestic challenges by the rival Hamas Islamists who control Gaza.

Meanwhile, Abbas' spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeina, said Thursday that the Israel Defense Forces' military actions "meant only one thing: the Israeli government ... aims to destroy the peace process."

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said: "These stupid missiles being launched - firecrackers, but at the end they have killed Israeli civilians -- we condemn this, clearly, openly, straightforwardly," he said. "But at the same time, we condemn all the Israeli incursions into Gaza, killing Palestinian civilians, destroying their houses, preventing them from having a normal life."

Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas' top leader in the Gaza Strip, said in a statement "repeated crimes by the Zionist occupation against our people and the targeting of children are proof that the leaders of the occupation are suffering from hysteria."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the rocket attacks need to stop. She blamed Hamas for starting the problem by seizing power in Gaza last year, when they ousted Abbas' Fatah forces from the territory.

Rice is due to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories next week in an effort to get Israelis and Palestinians to make some progress in peace talks.

Ashkelon Under Rocket Attack

By &

A total of 24 people are hospitalized, mostly for shock, following the firing of more than 30 rockets and mortar shells from Gaza on Israel on Thursday. Among them are two with shrapnel injuries.

Among the rockets and mortar shells fired from Gaza on Israel on Thursday, eight long-range Grad rockets hit the coastal city of Ashkelon, population 100,000.

The Katyusha-like rockets were fired in several waves in the mid-afternoon hours. Two rockets slammed directly into residential homes, and shock victims were treated at the sites. One rocket landed at the northern entrance to town, and marks the longest-range hit to date.

At the same time, five Kassam rockets were being fired at Sderot and the western Negev. A 70-year-old woman in Sderot suffered shrapnel wounds; she is listed in light condition in Barzilai Hospital. Two rockets scored a direct hit on a hothouse, and the Thai workers inside were just barely able to escape unharmed.

Later in the day, eight more Kassam rockets were fired into Israel; four of them landed north and east of Gaza, and four landed in Ashkelon.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak Thursday warned of an impending escalation. Following his recent comments that a "solution to the Kassams is closer than thought," Barak said on Wednesday afternoon, "A large ground offensive in Gaza is concrete and actual."

Speaking after a high-level security consultation in the shadow of the rocket attacks on Israel, Barak said, "The responsibility for the escalation lies with Hamas, and he will bear the consequences. We will reach those who are responsible and we will hit those who carry out the attacks."

Barak has given instructions to make the "color red" early missile warning system operational in Ashkelon, and the system is expected to begin functioning soon.

Ashkelon is fitted with the necessary components of the system, but until now they have not been turned on. As long as missile attacks on Ashkelon were few and far between, the authorities preferred not to use the system, because of concern it might cause unnecessary panic and wind up doing more harm than good.

Mayor Mahatzri said his city would be willing to pay a price in exchange for increased military pressure on the terrorists: "It is clear to us that the price for intensifying the Israeli pressure on the rocket launching cells is liable to bring Ashkelon into a state of alert and one in which we may have to absorb rocket fire. We are willing to pay this price for a limited time.

"We are aware of the fact that such a situation will require activating an early-warning system, and that the people of Ashkelon will have to pay the price for a military offensive in Gaza. Ashkelon is ready for this, and is able to deal with it."

Cabinet Minister Yitzchak Cohen (Shas) said Thursday, "We are at war against the Palestinians, and we should act as one acts in war, not as if we are in an educational furlough."

Cohen, who is a resident of Ashkelon, said: "We are in the midst of a war of liberation - the liberation of the southern front from the hands of the murderers. As a resident of Ashkelon I feel that the War of Independence is not over. If the children are afraid to go out, that is not independence. It is time to create reality and not just react to it, to lead and not to be led."

Ashkelon houses the main electrical supply station that powers the Gaza Strip. "This is a war for victory or for martyrdom. We will keep improving our rockets and target further into the Zionist entity," Muhammad Abdel-Al, spokesman for the Hamas-allied Popular Resistance Committees terror group, told WND.

At least 10 Grad rockets slammed into Ashkelon, about six miles from the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip. Several people were reported wounded from the attack, although the exact number was unclear. One of the rockets scored a direct hit on a home.

Grad rockets are longer-range Soviet-style projectiles similar to the Katyusha rocket, which the Lebanese Hizbullah terror group successfully used in 2006 to barrage northern Israel. The Grad travels further and has a larger payload than the Kassam rocket, which can travel about five miles and is the usual rocket of choice for Palestinians.

At least 60 more rockets, mostly Kassams, targeted Sderot Thursday, bombarding the working-class city of about 25,000 people located nearly three miles from the Gaza border.

The rockets crashed as hundreds of Sderot residents attended a funeral for Roni Yechiah, a 47-year-old man killed by Hamas' Kassam strikes Wednesday. Yechiah was struck when a rocket landed at a college in Sderot.

Earlier today, Israel's Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, on tour of ravaged Sderot, was caught in a rocket barrage that struck the same college where Yechiah was killed. Shrapnel lightly wounded one of Dichter's bodyguards.

Sources in Hamas told WND the group would attempt to continue firing Grad rockets at Ashkelon and will then move on to firing deeper inside Israel. The sources hinted they would next target Ashdod, one of Israel's most important port cities.

Female Terror Suspect Detained; Jerusalem Bombing Averted Israel Faxx News Services

The Shin Bet has detained a 17-year-old Palestinian girl from a village near Jerusalem about three weeks ago on suspicion that she planned to carry out a suicide bombing in Jerusalem. The story was only cleared for publication Thursday.

Security officials suspect that the young woman sought to join Islamic Jihad in order to carry out the attack, which was already in planning stages.

Israel said that a cell apprehended in the West Bank was planning to carry out an attack in the coming days. Shin Bet claimed Palestinian security troops entrusted with detaining the cell allowed them complete freedom of movement. A gunman killed in the arrest operation had in 2003 dispatched a suicide bomber to Israel.

The suspect, from the village of Abu Tur, south of Jerusalem, was detained after the Shin Bet received intelligence information about her intentions. The girl's interrogation revealed that she turned to Islamic Jihad members several months ago with the purpose of joining the group and carrying out a terror attack in the Jerusalem area.

The girl said that she wanted to join the organization because of what she characterized as her hatred for Jews, as well as personal problems.

After the suspect approached Islamic Jihad, members of the group began to look into bringing the girl into the organization. She passed several tests in order to ensure she was not collaborating with Israel's security services and then traveled to Mecca and started a speedy recruitment process in order to carry out an attack in Jerusalem.

The girl was interrogated upon her arrest and confessed to the charges. Her remand was extended Thursday for the second time, and an indictment is expected to be served against her this coming Sunday. The terror suspect claims that her relatives knew nothing of her plans to become a suicide bomber. Security officials discovered that the attack in question was already in planning stages, but its exact target had not yet been decided

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