Israel to continue incursion as Hamas continues rocket attacks

Special to World
Tuesday, October 12, 2004

TEL AVIV Israel has pledged to continue its military operation to prevent Palestinian missile attacks from the Gaza Strip.

But two weeks after the start of Operation Days of Penitence, Hamas gunners continue to fire Kassam-class short-range missiles into Israel. On Monday, a Kassam missile landed near the Israeli city of Sderot, the target of most Palestinian strikes. Nobody was reported injured.

"Until now, the operation continues and has brought good results," Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said. "The operation is proceeding as planned and in the next few days we will review the situation and discuss its continuation."

Israel's military was said to have urged Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to halt the operation. Officials said the military was concerned that deployment of troops in and around the Jabalya refugee camp north of Gaza City would endanger Israeli forces.

But Sharon rejected the recommendation by Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon for a withdrawal from Jabalya. Sharon was said to have argued that this would be seen as Israeli weakness in wake of the Al Qaida bombings of sites frequented by Israeli tourists in the Sinai Peninsula on Oct. 7.

The military has reduced the volume of operations over the last three days. On Monday, an explosion ripped through the home of an Islamic Jihad leader, Mohammed Sheik Halil. Halil, the target of two previous assassination attempts, was said to have survived the blast, which Palestinian sources attributed to Israel.

So far, about 120 Palestinians, about a third of them deemed civilians, have been killed in the Israeli operation. The military has not reported the elimination of Kassam production facilities.

"We are in the last stages of the operation in Jabalya after the army achieved a clear success and struck the terrorist infrastructure," Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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