Sunday, March 11, 2012

Evening Update: PM Netanyahu Blames Iran For Rocket Fire

This news isn't surprising, but the fact that Netanyahu is bringing it public may reveal an escalation in this situation between Israel and Iran:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has pointed the finger at Iran inongoing rocket attacks from Gaza. “The fire from Gaza is an Iranian problem, not a Palestinian problem,” he said Sunday in a meeting of Likud ministers.

Iran has been accused of fundingIslamic Jihad, one of the main terrorist groups operating in Gaza, Judea and Samaria and the group behind many of the recent rocket attacks.

IDF spokesman, Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai, leveled similar accusations. “Islamic Jihad continues to act as the long arm of Iran, which finances, supports, and encourages it even today with weapons and money that come straight from Tehran,” he said.

Iran is encouraging the Islamic Jihad terrorist group in Gaza to continue firing rockets against Israel, IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai said on Sunday.

According to assessment within the IDF, Islamic Jihad is increasingly frustrated with its failure to exact a heavy price from Israel despite the large number of rockets it has fired. As a result of this frustration, the IDF predicts that the Islamic Jihad will escalate its rocket fire in the coming days.

In addition on Sunday, the IDF recorded an increase in the number of air strikes it carried out during the day. Gantz also ordered the IDF to continue operating against terrorist targets in Gaza despite efforts that are underway by European diplomats to obtain a ceasefire between Israel and the terrorist groups in Gaza.

A technical failure led to two Grad rockets striking Be'er Sheva on Sunday afternoon, Col. Tvika Haimovich, head of the IDF's active aerial defense system, told Haaretz.

One rocket hit a school that was empty at the time and the other struck a parked car in a residential neighborhood.

"Unfortunately, the incident in Be'er Sheva happened because of a technical failure in one of the system's components," Haimovich said. "It happened exactly when a rocket was in the air. We are doing everything to make sure there are no failures… but it would be irresponsible and unprofessional of me to say there is 100 percent protection."

The Iron Dome system has intercepted 40 rockets since Friday. More than 90 rockets have fallen in Israeli territory during that time. The Iron Dome is designed to intercept only rockets identified as heading toward populated areas.

School was called off on Sunday in Ashkelon, Be'er Sheva, Ashdod and other regional councils in Israel south, affecting some 207,000 students. On Monday, classes will be cancelled in towns located within 40 kilometers of the Gaza Strip.

A terrorist missile from Gaza struck thecourtyard of an empty school in Be’er Sheva Sunday afternoon. Another rocket damaged 15 houses. The city’s order to close all schools saved possible mass casualties.

More than 25 missiles were fired on southern Israel Sunday, several of them intercepted by the Iron Dome system, which automatically weeds out missiles that are aimed at open areas, but is not foolproof;.

The rocket attack on Be’er Sheva was not intercepted and caused widespread property damage as well as sending several people into shock.

A Be’er Sheva police officer said that if one of the missiles had exploded a few feet to the right or left of its impact site in a residential area, it would have directly hit anapartment building.

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz reassured Israel that it “will continue to retaliate with force and sensitivity against any firing directed at Israel. Hamas and other terror groups continue to gain strength at an alarming rate. We do not seek escalation, but Hamas controls Gaza."

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