In the past 24 hours, over 15 heavy rockets were fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza against Israel’s southern port city of Ashkelon. The 122 mm GRAD rockets (also known as Katyushas), are a type of standard military artillery weapon produced in the former Soviet bloc and by other states deploying non-Western arms. It is manufactured to military standards, by a conventional arms industry, and is equipped with a weapons-grade high explosive fragmentation warhead.
The range of the rockets fired against Ashkelon is over 20 km, an upgraded capability which places about a quarter of a million Israeli civilians in constant danger of Hamas attack. In the latest barrage, rockets struck the campus of Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, destroyed a family home in one of the city’s neighborhood, cratered a city street, and stuck the municipal cemetery. Several civilians were wounded by shrapnel and about two dozen suffered shock. These rocket strikes were in addition to about 50 shorter range Kassam rockets launched today against the city of Sderot, near Gaza’s border.
The GRAD rockets fired today were apparently smuggled into Gaza from Iran via Egypt through tunnels and the breached Rafah border fence. Israel has repeatedly warned neighboring states and the international community about the arms buildup taking place in Hamas-controlled Gaza. Today’s attacks constitute a regretful yet unequivocal proof of the veracity of Israel’s warnings.
Israel left the Gaza Strip over two years ago, with no intention of ever returning. Yet, the continued escalation of Hamas terrorism emanating from Gaza, purposely targeting Israeli civilians, is liable to leave Israel with no choice.