Qassam rocket attacks since Israel’s pullout from Gaza

Published: 18 June 2006
Briefing Number 176

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This Briefing describes the Qassam rocket attacks which have continued following Israel 's pullout from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, and their impact on the residents of the Israeli town of Sderot .

The human dimension of the Qassam rocket attacks

In August 2005 Israel pulled out of Gaza . All Israeli soldiers left. And Israel evacuated 8000 settlers and destroyed their homes. Since that time the Gaza Strip has been entirely under Palestinian control. Since Israel 's departure over 500 Qassam rockets have been fired by Palestinians into Israel , targeting the town of Sderot , and other civilian locations.

Alama Rafaes, mother of schoolchildren in Sderot (quoted in Hamodia newspaper, 14 June 2006 ):

“The children are afraid. We all are. This is a terrible situation. You can't go to work in peace because there are hardly any jobs available, so you hold on and try to survive….”

Mark Schneider, 16 year old schoolboy in Sderot (Hamodia, ibid):

“We haven't studied regularly for the past four years [Qassam rocket attacks started 4 years ago – Beyond Images] . I don't know how I manage to take the exams – you sit down and suddenly in the middle of a matriculation exam – boom, a Qassam. And if there is no Qassam, you're always fearful that one many land at any given moment. It's simply terrible….”

The scene in Sderot's central market area, June 2006:-

“The early-warning system signalled the onset of another Qassam rocket attack. Some people huddled close to the walls as others gathered behind the vehicle belonging to a cherry seller, but essentially there was nowhere to hide. One woman burst into tears. All eyes were raised heavenward. A loud sound broke the relative silence as the rocket exploded not in the market…. An hour later, and a few hundred meters away, a similar scene unfolded….”

- from Haaretz newspaper, 12 June 2006 , articled titled ‘At least 54 Qassams have rocked Sderot since Friday –

Shlomo Adaf's narrow escape when factory takes direct hit (from Jerusalem Post, 16 June 2006 )

“Shlomo Adaf was lucky to be in his factory storeroom when the Qassam rocket exploded just above the concrete roof, causing a 21-meter slab to fall amid the piles of pine lumber used to construct boxes for shipping…. It was a miracle, said Adaf, that none of the 18 factory employees was standing under the slab……One of the shock victims of the attack had been spared by seconds. The rocket fell just as he walked away from the spot where the roof caved in. “The man fell to his knees shaking….” “

500 rocket attacks – making daily life impossible in Sderot….

The residents of Sderot are living under constant threat of rocket attack and daily life has been made impossible.

  • The Qassam rocket attacks are indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians

  •   Among the targets hit in Sderot are a community centre, a kindergarten, homes, and shopping precincts. Several Israeli children have been killed, and only miracles have prevented many more Israelis fatalities

  • Qassams have also struck Israeli energy facilities near Ashkelon . Disaster has only been narrowly averted. See Beyond Images Briefing 171

  • The Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees, Islamic Jihad, and splinter groups of Fatah, have each claimed responsibility for the Qassam attacks and pledged further attacks

  • Recently, Palestinian groups have brought Qatyusha rockets into Gaza , which are more sophisticated than Qassams and have increased range and firepower. Several attacks have already been foiled by Israel

  • The Palestinian political leadership have taken no practical steps to curb these attacks, and many are encouraging them

This is the context in which Israel 's military measures against the Qassam rocket squads needs to be viewed.

Qassams before Israel 's pullout: See Beyond Image Briefing 130 for the tragedies and destruction caused by Qassams before Israel 's 2005 pullout.

Key messages:

  • There is no equivalence between the Qassam rocket attacks and Israel 's countermeasures

  • The Qassams deliberately target Israeli civilians. Israel 's countermeasures are directed against those who fire the Qassams

  • If the Qassam rockets stopped, then Israel 's military actions against those who launch them would stop as well

  • Reread the account above of the collapsed concrete roof of the Sderot factory. Imagine that the target was an Israeli school. And ask what responsibility the Israeli Government has to prevent such an attack

  • For as long as the Qassam attacks continue, the Palestinians must bear responsibility for the suffering caused to Palestinian civilians as an unintended result of Israel 's efforts to prevent them