The firing of a rocket from the Gaza Strip to Ashkelon’s center on Tuesday constitutes an unequivocal invitation by Hamas to war. The Palestinians who launched the rocket apparently are members of the Hamas military wing, but it’s quite possible that either an Iranian or Syrian element interested in intensifying the military conflict with Israel spurred the move.
The firing is the longest-range rocket attack to have taken place from
Palestinian territory. Rockets previously have hit Ashkelon’s outskirts, and were generally aimed at the area’s power station, but Israel refrained from cutting off electricity to Gaza. It’s quite possible that the rocket that hit Ashkelon is a Russian-made Grad, which has a longer range than the Qassam. Such rockets were smuggled into the Gaza Strip from Egypt, probably through border crossings near the Philadelphi line.