Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza:
The threat to Israeli energy facilities

Published: 10 April 2006
Briefing Number 171

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This Briefing highlights recent rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip on a power plant and chemical storage facilities in the Israeli town of Ashkelon. These attacks have the potential to cause catastrophic loss of life and damage. Islamic Jihad has now announced a strategy of future rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza. This is the context against which Israeli military action against the Palestinian rocket teams, and their training facilities, needs to be viewed.

Qassams and Katyushas from Gaza

Since 2003 hundreds of Qassam rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel (see Briefing 130). Since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, these attacks have continued. According to the Israeli Prime Minister’s office there were 377 Qassam rocket launchings in 2005, as opposed to 309 in 2004.

Palestinian rocket squads are now starting to fire Russian-made Katyusha rockets, rather than Qassams (see below). Rockets fired from Gaza have landed on Israeli schools, community centres, and many other places. A serious threat has now emerged of strikes on Israeli energy facilities in the town of Ashkelon, only a few kilometres from the Gaza strip. Among the incidents:-

Qassam rocket lands in the Ashkelon industrial zone

On 14 February 2006 eight Qassam rockets were fired at the Western Negev desert, with one exploding in the Ashkelon industrial zone. The zone houses the Ashkelon power station, the Ashkelon-Eilat oil pipeline, and several ammonia tanks.

“If fired accurately, a Qassam could cause a huge disaster in the industrial zone, causing severe damage to infrastructure and human lives….”
(senior Israeli police officer specialising in disaster planning, Jerusalem Post 17.02.06). An almost identical near-miss occurred on 4 March 2006.

Stockpile of highly inflammable chemicals nearly struck by Qassam

On 6 April 2006 five Qassam rockets were fired by a Gaza Palestinian rocket squad at Ashkelon, with one landing in the Ashkelon industrial zone.

“A great disaster was averted today… the rocket landed near a stockpile of highly inflammable materials. One flare could have caused grave damage to the entire vicinity….”

(source in the industrial zone, quoted in Ynet News, 6 April 2006)

Islamic Jihad announcement – rocket attacks are part of our strategy

On 30 March 2006, Islamic Jihad issued a statement (reported on the website of the Kuwait Times – confirming that they have many Russian-made Katyusha rockets with a range of up to 30 kilometres which they can launch at Israel from the Gaza Strip. The Katyusha has a far longer range than the Qassam rocket. An Islamic Jihad spokesman stated: “These rockets will be the reason for liberating the villages adjacent to the Gaza Strip….”


Israeli military operations to prevent rocket attacks attract widespread media attention, and international criticism. But the rocket attacks against Israeli civilian society, which are the context for Israeli action, receive far less attention. Israel cannot be expected to wait for a catastrophe to occur.

Related Briefings

Briefing 130 – Qassam rocket attacks against Israel

Briefing 4 – Israel’s largest fuel depot attacked by Palestinian group