In response to Palestinian mortar shelling of Shderot, a
town in the south within the recognized international
borders of Israel ("the Green Line"), IDF forces took up key
positions at locations throughout the Gaza Strip Tuesday
morning, effectively cutting it into thirds and preventing
Palestinians from traveling from one sector to another.
According to army spokesman, this step is very effective in
crippling the abilities of terrorists to plan and carry out
their evil work.
There are no reports of injuries to soldiers in the
comprehensive air, land and sea operation that continued
throughout Monday night into the early hours of Tuesday
Senior sources in the Prime minister's Office said Israel
has no intention of conquering Palestinian Authority, Israel
Radio reported. The IDF activity was intended to strike
exclusively at terrorist elements attacking Israelis, and to
calm the situation, allowing negotiations to resume, the
However, IDF troops also seized a piece of Palestinian-
controlled territory Tuesday in the northern part of the
Gaza Strip, near the village of Beit Hanoun, from where
mortar shells were fired Monday at the Negev town of
Soldiers and army bulldozers penetrated several hundred
meters into territory under control of the Palestinian
Authority (PA). Military sources said that the army would
continue to hold onto the area for as long as it took to
stop the firing of mortar shells, but that it had no
intention of conquering PA areas and holding onto them for a
Also Tuesday morning, army bulldozers uprooted orchards east
of Beit Hanoun, which the IDF said Palestinian mortar cells
were using as cover.
The five mortar rounds that landed on Shderot Monday night
were fired from Beit Hanoun, according to the IDF
Earlier, IAF helicopter gunships and Israel Navy ships
rocketed the headquarters of Palestinian Authority Chairman
Yasser Arafat's Force 17, Palestinian Police positions, and
a naval post in Dir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip
Monday night after Palestinian gunmen fired five mortar
rounds on the Negev town of Shderot.
At least four persons were wounded in the IAF attack on the
Force 17 headquarters, a police officer at the scene said.
More casualties were prevented by the evacuation of the area
The Palestinian attack came less than 24 hours after an IAF
raid on a Syrian army radar station in Lebanon's Bekaa
Valley, sparking fears of an escalating conflict. The raid
in Lebanon in turn, was a reprisal for a Hizbullah rocket
attack that killed an Israeli tank commander in the Har Dov
The 82 mm. mortar shells, which police said have an
estimated range of about 1,500 meters, landed around 6 P.M.
in Shderot's western most neighborhood of single family
homes, closest to Gaza. The town lies about 5 kilometers
from the Gaza Strip. One shell landed 20 meters from Mayor
Eli Moyal's house.
Damage, boruch Hashem, was light. One person
suffering from shock was taken to the hospital, and the
windows of some of the houses near where one of the mortar
shells hit were damaged. There was no panic, but there was
IDF sources suggested that the choice of Shderot as a target
may not have been a coincidence -- though nobody commented
on the fact that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Sycamore
Ranch is only a few more kilometers east of Shderot. So far,
only small settlements, such as Kibbutz Nahal Oz and Netiv
Ha'asara, have been targeted. Nevertheless, the fact that a
large and densely populated town well inside Israel had been
targeted was seen as a marked escalation by the
"The Palestinians are trying to make Israeli civilians feel
insecure everywhere in Israel," said a senior IDF source.
A very senior IDF source said Monday night that the army is
operating on the assumption that the Palestinians also have
mortars in the West Bank. He said that he fact that they
haven't used the mortars from the West Bank "fortifies our
thesis that they are being systematic about the use of
mortars. This is not some uncontrollable gang. I believe
they understand the significance of firing mortars in the
IDF sources say that mortar fire inside the West Bank at
settlements, or from the PA to Israeli towns inside the
Green Line, would result in a harsh Israeli reaction.
Shortly after the mortar attack on Shderot, Palestinians in
Beit Jala shot at an IDF position below Rechov Ha'anafa in
Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood, at soldiers at a post on the
Jerusalem-Gush Etzion road, and at an IDF post at kever
Rochel outside Bethlehem. Earlier, shots were fired at an
IDF position near the Shdema army base.
The IDF responded with light weapons and then tank fire at
Palestinian positions in El Khader and Beit Jala.
Sharon adviser Ra'anan Gissin termed the mortar attack on
Shderot a "very serious escalation" that justified Israel's
response. He added that the Palestinian security forces have
turned from a "police force" into terror organizations.
Arafat "is looking for the ultimate provocation, to force
Israel into an action that will cause an escalation, and
lead to international intervention," Gissin said. "But he
will not be able to provoke us. We will take measured
Gissin said the cabinet ministers were informed of Israel's
response as it was taking place. At a previous meeting of
the security cabinet, Sharon, Ben-Eliezer, and Peres --
termed the mini-cabinet -- were empowered to take responsive
measures to Palestinian attacks without having to convene
the entire security cabinet.