Since the beginning of the cease-fire with the Palestinians on 25 November, more than 40 Kassam rockets have been fired into Israel, at Ashkelon, Sderot, and the Western Negev.

 Behind the headlines: Kassam fire goes on despite cease-fire


Israeli sapper removes remains of a Kassam rocket near Sderot (Reuters)

Since the beginning of the cease-fire with the Palestinians on 26 November, more than 40 Kassam rockets have been fired into Israel – nine of them in a single day (Wednesday, 20 December). In effect, in cannot be said that a cease-fire truly exists; rather, Israel has shown restraint by not responding to this continuous fire from the Gaza Strip at Ashkelon, Sderot, and the western Negev.

Even though most of these rockets aimed at Israel’s civilians have fortunately not resulted in loss of life or serious property damage, no country in the world would tolerate any such attacks on its civilian population. Israel continues to follow a policy of restraint out of a desire to give a chance for peace to develop; out of a willingness to give Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas an opportunity to solidify his control of the government and because Israel wants to avoid an escalation of the situation – but this cannot go on forever.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made this clear, when he said, "Israel has not responded even once to the rockets that have been fired since the beginning of the cease-fire, but it is impossible to be reconciled to this for long."

The responsibility for this continued violation of the cease-fire is taken by various terrorist groups; yesterday being the Islamic Jihad. Israel, however, considers the Palestinian Authority and its leadership as responsible for the firing and demands that the PA and its security forces put an end to it. Israel will not tolerate attacks by mortars, light weapons, explosive charges, suicide bombers, or Kassam rockets, and will be forced to act unilaterally to end these assaults.

The inaccuracy of the Kassam rockets has somehow resulted in their being under-reported in the international media and thereby having little impact on public opinion. As a result, some global decision-makers have come to treat the issue with an undeserved lack of seriousness. For this reason, if and when Israel is forced to respond, it is liable to find itself accused of "aggressiveness" or of using "disproportionate force" to meet a very real threat that few have heard about.

Nevertheless, no matter which terrorist organization perpetrates attacks, the obligation to observe the cease-fire applies unconditionally to the Palestinian Authority, which bears the responsibility to enforce it. When Israel left the Gaza Strip last year, it did so with no intention of returning, but was forced to act there to halt acts of terrorism. Israel’s continuing restraint depends on the Palestinian leadership’s willingness to meet its responsibility to halt all acts of terrorism.