Background on Qassam Missiles
Missile fire against Sderot and the western Negev began in January 2001. For the past 8 years, over 10,000 rockets have been launched towards Sderot and the western Negev. The Qassam rockets have claimed the lives of 28 Israelis; 9 of which were residents of Sderot, and 3 of whom were children. In addition, over 600 Israeli citizens have been injured and thousands have been psychologically traumatized by the rocket explosions. The rockets have damaged countless homes and properties in Sderot and thewestern Negev.
Sderot is located approximately 2.5 km away from Gaza, and absorbs most of the missiles fired from Gaza. The rockets have forced thousands of Sderot residents to leave the city and relocate elsewhere in Israel.
The Qassam Missile
The short range Qassam missile was developed by the Hamas terrorist organization, with the aid of Iran, Hizbullah, and the Palestinian Authority. The rocket was named after the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, itself named after an Islamic Mujahid who led a Palestinian group in the 1930s.
The Qassam missile, which can reach to a distance of 20 km, is fueled by a mixture of potassium nitrate and sugar (solid propellant). Qassam missiles are manufactured and deployed primarily in the Gaza Strip. However, the IDF has seized Qassam missiles in Palestinian areas of the West Bank.
Due to the fact that they're cheap, easy to manufacture, and simple to transport and operate, the Qassam missile is used as the main weapon of terror against Israeli civilians by Palestinian terrorist operatives. Hamas and other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip use elementary technology to produce large quantities of rockets, which give them the ability to attack the Israeli populace in the western Negev at any time.
Palestinian terrorists employ various methods including Google Earth, to fire Qassams towards civilian targets. The IDF cannot effectively respond to rocket launchers due to the fact that 97% rockets are fired from civilian populated areas in Gaza, often nearby schools, hospitals and mosques.
More than 2,500 mortar shells were fired between 2001 and November 2007. Their short range made them effective before the disengagement, especially when they were aimed at Jewish communities and IDF forces located in the Gaza Strip. In the absence of Israeli targets after the disengagement, there was a sharp decrease in mortar fire.
However, since April 2007, terrorist organizations have begun to make greater use of mortar shells, especially Hamas. Mortar rockets are aimed at IDF forces operating in the Gaza Strip and along the security fence, at the crossings (especially Kerem Shalom) and at the Israeli communities close to the security fence, such as Netiv Ha'asara, Kibbutz Kerem Shalom and Kibbutz Nahal Oz. In the year 2008, Palestinian mortar fire claimed the lives of 3 Israeli civilians living on local kibbutzim.
Because the Katuysha rocket is much more advanced both in distance and design than the Qassam, Katuysha rockets are used to target heavily populated Israeli cities like Ashkelon. Iranian-produced, 122mm Grad Katuysha rockets launched from Gaza have landed countless times in both industrial and residential areas of Ashkelon. In March 2008, a Katyusha rocket hit a busy Ashkelon mall, physically and psychologically wounding over 90 Israelis.
Palestinian Terrorist Groups in Gaza
Since Hamas's takeover of Gaza in mid-June 2007 to December 2007, there have been 475 missiles and 635 mortar shells launched at Israeli cities. Hamas rockets are identified by their red and green coloring Palestinian Islamic Jihad is affiliated with the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and is believed to be funded by Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. The armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, the Al- Quds brigade, fires missiles towards Sderot and the Western Negev on a regular basis. The organization produces the Al- Quds Qassam missiles (types 1, 2 and 3), which are identified by their red and yellow coloring.
Al-Aqsa Martyr Brigades, the armed military wing of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party, frequently carries out missile attacks against Israel. In February 2008, the terrorist faction carried out a suicide bombing in the southern Israeli city of Dimona. Their missiles are identified by yellow coloring with Arabic writing. The U.S. State department identifies Al-Aqsa Martyr Brigades as a terrorist organization.