Palestinian rocket aimed at Jerusalem for first time as Hamas vows "more surprises"
Israeli security forces search for a rocket thought to have been fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip, in Jerusalem, Nov. 16, 2012. / AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner
TEL AVIV The rocket Hamas claimed to have fired from Gaza fell just short of Jerusalem on Friday, set off warning sirens heard by the citizens.
The city has previously been out of reach. While no one was hurt when the missile fell just short of the ancient city, it told Israelis that not only were they vulnerable, but Hamas was willing to take enormous risk to let them know it.
East Jerusalem is home to hundreds of Palestinians and the al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest shrine in Islam.
If the missile was indeed fired from Gaza, it demonstrated that Hamas's military wing has figured out how to extend the range of its missiles, perhaps by cutting down on the payload to add more fuel.
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"We are sending a short and simple message: There is no security for any Zionist on any single inch of Palestine, and we plan more surprises," Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida said to various news agencies.
Hamas officials said the rocket was a homemade M-75 rocket, a weapon that has never been fired before. Early rockets fired by Hamas were homemade, with limited range and destructive power.
Sophisticated projectiles with a longer range are believed to have been smuggled into Gaza from Iran and Libya, where arsenals were looted during the battle to oust the Qaddafi regime.
Most of the projectiles don't have guidance systems, but the Israeli military believes Hamas may also have some with more precision targeting capabilities.
Two missiles have also fallen in the sea off Tel Aviv, Israel's heavily-populated commercial capital, in the past two days. They were the first missiles to even come close since ballistic missiles were fired by Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War.
The attempts to hit Tel Aviv and Jerusalem came as Israel was massing troops and armor along the Gaza border. Some 16,000 reservists have already been called up, with provision for another 14,000 if required.
Defense and political analysts predicted on Israeli TV that air raids on Gaza will continue for the next three to four days, if only because countries which back Israel would find it harder to keep doing so in the face of the inevitable civilian casualties a ground offensive would cause.
Israeli officials insist they do not want war but will not tolerate a situation where Hamas and other militants can threaten Israeli civilians.
But Hamas may also be bolstered by the gathering support it has in the Arab world.
Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil paid an unprecedented visit to Gaza on Friday, and the Tunisian foreign minister is scheduled to drop by on Saturday, air and missile strikes permitting.
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