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Friday, March 11, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Israel withdrawing from border cargo terminals
as Gaza gunners step up strikes

TEL AVIV — Palestinian gunners, under the direction of Hamas, have been targeting Israeli border terminals.


The Israeli military has reported increase mortar and missile fire toward cargo terminals with the Gaza Strip. Officials said the rocket fire has forced the military to suspend service at one of two terminals that help supply the Hamas-ruled strip.

"We've determined that the region is one of the most difficult to secure," Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, coordinator of government activities, said.

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Officials said the military, under direction of the Defense Ministry, would end operations at the Karni border terminal along the Gaza Strip. They said Karni has come under heavy missile, mortar and rocket fire in 2011 believed directed by Hamas.

"Hamas and other terrorist organizations carry out diverse terrorist activities in the area and it became difficult not only to secure the crossing but also to enable the local Israeli civilian population to live peacefully," Dangot told a briefing on March 9.

So far this year, Israel has reported the firing of nearly 100 missiles, mortar and rocket launches from the Gaza Strip. More than a third of the attacks took place near Karni, which received hundreds of trucks per day.

Over the last eight months, Israel has dropped most import restrictions on the Gaza Strip, imposed when Hamas captured the area in 2007. Officals said traffic that had been assigned to Karni would be transferred to the Keren Shalom crossing, along the border with Egypt and Israel.

Officials said Keren Shalom, as part of a $28 million project, would be expanded to handle additional cargo. They said the military expected 450 trucks to arrive at the crossing per day, a nearly four-fold increase from 2010.

But Dangot said Hamas and other Palestinian gunners were also targeting Keren Shalom. He did not say whether the missile and mortar strikes would affect operations or expansion plans.

"Recently, even at the Kerem Shalom Crossing we are seeing attacks," Dangot said. "Some of the rockets land in central regions of the crossing."

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon warned that the regime changes in the Middle East was intensifying the smuggling of weapons and fighters to the Gaza Strip. Ayalon warned of the prospect that Hamas missiles, enhanced by Iran, would land in the Tel Aviv area.

"Unfortunately, you and your families living in the center of the country also understand the this is a very real threat," Ayalon told foreign diplomats on March 10. "The range of the rockets reaches all of us and already today thousands of rockets are stored in the Gaza Strip that threaten the population in Israel. The continuation of the smuggling will interfere with Israel's ability to ease restrictions for Gaza residents."

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