While those living outside of Sderot may be under the impression that the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is going well, Sderot and western Negev residents continued to experience rocket fire during the recent Passover holiday as terror activities continue in the Gaza Strip.
On Wednesday April 16, a Qassam rocket slammed into the western Negev, with another rocket following 24 hours later. The second rocket was fired hours after the Israel Air Force struck a booby-trapped building in central Gaza.
Both rockets landed in the Eshkol region of the western Negev, in an open an area, causing no reported injuries or damages.
Since the ceasefire began on January 19, an estimated 160-180 rockets have slammed into southern Israel according to the IDF spokesperson’s office. There has been a marked decrease in the number of rockets fired at Israeli civilians since Operation Cast Lead. According to the IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, Hamas has been deterred from firing Qassam rockets into Israel since the operation.
“It is not coincidental that there is no [Qassam] rocket fire from Gaza, but we know that terrorism or attacks along the border fence, by sea or from the Gaza Strip into the Sinai Peninsula, are still on the agenda and we are therefore preparing with all the necessary measures,” Ashkenazi stated on Monday, April 16, as reported by the Jerusalem Post.
Other terrorist activities have continued in Gaza. On Thursday April 13, Egyptian officials arrested nine Sinai Beduin near the Gaza border on the suspicion of smuggling weapons, merchandise and money to Hamas. Two of the suspects were caught at the Rafah border crossing in possession of more than $90,000.
Egyptian police had discovered the day before 900 kilograms of TNT hidden in 18 sacks near the Gaza border. Egyptian authorities also arrested three Palestinians on suspicion of infiltrating into the country.
On April 13, the Israeli Navy spotted an unmanned Palestinian fishing boat off the coast of the Gaza Strip. The boat was loaded with hundred of kilograms of explosives and remotely detonated as it approached an Israeli Navy ship, which distanced itself away from it. The fishing boat exploded seconds later, injuring no one.
In the past, Palestinian have tried to detonate explosives-laden ships next to Israel Navy vessels.
According to the Jerusalem Post, (http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1239488122515&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull four Israeli sailors were wounded in 2002 when Palestinian detonated a fishing boat next to a navy patrol off northern Gaza.
In October 2000, a small ship exploded next to the USS Cole in Yemen, which killed 17 American sailors.
Also last week, Egyptian authorities cracked a Hezbollah-run terrorist ring based in Egypt. Thanks to intelligence information provided by Israel’s Mossad and other foreign intelligence services including the CIA, the crackdown led Egyptian authorities to arrest dozens of suspects on Thursday April 16.
According to Ha’aretz, (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1078381.html ) the head of the ring was Lebanese citizen Sami Shihab who was in touch with a special branch of Hezbollah for some time. Egyptian security sources said that the Hezbollah agents had planned a series of terrorist attacks against tourist sites in Sinai where western and Israeli tourists frequent. Egptian sources also noted that the Suez Canal was a target of the ring.
Egypt had been hunting for 13 members of the 49 member Hezbollah ring which included Lebanese and Sudanese citizens for some time. The men had taken shelter in the central Sinal town of al-Nakhl and authorities had feared that the men might escape north into Gaza located 120 miles away through secret tunnels or head further south.
A senior Egyptian source told Haaretz that “Egypt will take active measures against anyone who threatens its national security. We will not allow anyone to do this: Hezbollah, Iran or others. They sought to strike at the national security of Egypt, but luckily we stopped them and uncovered their plot.”