Palestinians continue mortar attack on Israeli communities

Special to World
Tuesday, January 6, 2004

GAZA CITY Palestinian gunners have rained mortars on nearby Israeli communities in one of the heaviest shelling yet in the more than three-year-old war.

Israeli security sources said Palestinian insurgents fired about 25 mortar shells on the Israeli Gush Katif bloc in the central Gaza Strip.

Nobody was injured in the attack on overnight Monday, but a house and school were damaged Palestinian gunners also fired three mortar shells toward the Israeli community of Morag on Monday. Nobody was injured.

The Israeli military did not immediately retaliate. So far, nearly 3,800 mortar shells have been fired toward Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip since the war began in September 2000.

Palestinian gunners continued mortar fire on Tuesday. Two mortars slammed into greenhouses in the Gush Katif bloc and security sources nobody was injured.

The increase in shelling attacks has been attributed to the commemoration of the 39th anniversary of the ruling Fatah movement led by Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. Most of the recent shelling attacks were said to have been carried out by the Fatah-dominated Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which claims a force of 5,000 combatants.

Al Aqsa has also prepared more than a dozen suicide attacks in Israel from insurgency strongholds in the northern West Bank city of Nablus, Israeli security sources said. Six Palestinians have been killed over the last few days in clashes with Israeli troops in that city.

Israeli sources said Palestinian insurgency groups have expanded production of mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank rockets and short-range missiles. They said most of the material required for these weapons are produced in PA-sponsored facilities in the Gaza Strip.

On Monday, Israeli troops destroyed one of two tunnels used by Palestinian insurgents in the southern Gaza Strip. One of the tunnels, which ran underneath a road used by Israeli military patrols, was filled with explosives. The sources said Palestinian insurgents had planned to detonate the explosives in an attempt to destroy an Israeli main battle tank.

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