New Hamas missile can reach Israeli city from Gaza

Special to World
Tuesday, September 2, 2003

TEL AVIV Hamas has extended the operational range of the Kassam-class short-range missile to nearly 20 kilometers.

Israeli officials said Hamas has demonstrated its ability to strike the southwestern city of Ashkelon from the northern Gaza Strip. The officials said the achievement means Hamas has extended the range of the Kamas to nearly 20 kilometers.

Last week, Hamas fired four Kassam rockets toward Ashkelon. At least one of the missiles struck the industrial zone of the city.

It was the first time a Kassam missile landed inside Ashkelon. Earlier, a Kassam missile landed in a beach just south of the city.

Israeli attack helicopters fired missiles that killed two senior Hamas operatives in the Bureij refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on Saturday.

Abdullah Akel and Fared Mayet were regarded as being behind the Kassam strikes near Ashkelon. Over the last two weeks, Israel's military has killed 10 Hamas operatives.

"The option of a ground operation by the army in the Gaza Strip exists and we will do it when we judge the moment is right," Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said. "We are working right now against this organization. No members are safe."

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On Monday, an Israeli special operations unit captured Sufian Stetti, regarded as the No. 2 commander of Hamas in the northern West Bank city of Tulkarm. Stetti's superior, the Hamas commander in Tulkarm, was said to have gone underground.

On Sunday, Israeli Defense Ministry director-general Amos Yaron ordered the construction of 50 secure rooms that could withstand Palestinian missile attacks. The rooms would be constructed in the Gush Katif bloc of communities in the central Gaza Strip, which has come under attack from Kassam missiles and mortars.

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