TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) – Palestinian militants have smuggled dozens of Katyusha rockets into the Gaza Strip, potentially threatening towns well inside Israel, a senior Israeli military official said Friday.
The official said Israel is prepared to re-enter Gaza in response to the threat of the rockets, but has no plans to do so in the immediate future. He spoke on condition of anonymity under military guidelines.
Israel withdrew from Gaza last summer, ending a 38-year military occupation.
Since then, militants have managed to smuggle the Katyushas through tunnels along the southern border with Egypt, the official said, adding that some parts have entered Gaza through the Rafah border crossing. The Rafah crossing is controlled by Palestinian security forces along with European monitors.
The official said some of the rockets were made by Iran, but gave few other details on their origins. Islamic Jihad militants, who have close ties with Iran, recently fired a Katyusha into southern Israel for the first time. The rocket caused no damage, but had longer range and was more powerful than the homemade rockets usually fired by Palestinian militants.
The official said Israel wants to avoid a ground operation in Gaza but will do so if the Palestinians increase their capabilities in a “significant way.” He cited the entrance of the Katyushas as a possible reason for military action.