TEL AVIV — Israel's military are treating a rocket attack from the
Gaza Strip as a major escalation in the Palestinian war against the Jewish
On Thursday, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz convened senior officials and
military commanders to discuss the Katyusha strike, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials said the
military has assessed that Palestinian insurgency groups such as Hamas and
Islamic Jihad have acquired the Soviet-origin Grad rocket from the
Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah in Lebanon.
Officials said the firing of a Katyusha rocket from the northern Gaza
Strip on March 28 marked a major boost in Palestinian military capability.
They said Palestinian insurgents have demonstrated their ability to operate
and maintain the Katyusha rocket, with a range of about 20 kilometers.
"This is a very worrisome development because the Palestinians now have
genuine rockets that could cause far more damage than the Kassam
[short-range missile]," an official said.
"This is a grave act that requires a determined response," Mofaz was
quoted as saying.
[On late Thursday, four Israelis were killed in a suicide bombing at the
entrance of the Jewish community of Kedumim in the northern West Bank. The
bomber, a Palestinian from the Hebron area, was dressed as an Orthodox
Jewish hitch-hiker who hailed a Kedumim motorist. Fatah claimed
responsibility for the attack.]
Military sources said the Grad was manufactured and delivered by Iran to
the Gaza Strip. They said Iran has transferred Katyushas and production
expertise to Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian groups in the Palestinian
[On Thursday, Palestinian gunners fired five Kassam short-class missiles
toward Israel. Israel responded with artillery and naval fire.]
Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for the Katyusha attack. In a
statement, Jihad said it has acquired "many" Katyushas with a range of up to
Jihad identified the Grad as having a caliber of 122 mm and a range of
between 18 and 30 kilometers. The rocket was said to measure 2.8 meters,
weigh 66 kilograms, including a 17-kilogram warhead.
Jihad spokesman Abu Abdullah said the Grad was produced in Russia and
smuggled into the Gaza Strip from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. The spokesman
said Palestinians would keep firing rockets in an effort to pressure
Israel to withdraw from additional territory around the Gaza Strip.
"These rockets, God willing, will be the reason for liberating the
villages adjacent to the Gaza Strip," Abu Abdullah said.
Jihad said its engineers were examining the Grads in an effort to
develop and produce similar rockets. Jihad has been aided by Hizbullah and