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November 16, 2002

Residents: Palestinian mortars hit Palestinian homes

Time for homeowner's insurance?
RAMALLAH — Palestinians residents have complained to authorities that mortar shells fired by Hamas toward Israeli communities have struck their homes instead.

Paletinian Authority officials said Fatah and Hamas mortar attacks have struck Palestinian homes near the city of Dir El Balah in the Gaza Strip.

The PA-owned Al Hayat Al Jadida daily said Dir El Balah residents complained at a recent meeting to both Fatah and Hamas representatives that most of the mortar attacks have fallen short of the Israeli communities. Instead, the mortars struck Palestinian homes and property.

"Palestinian residents of Al Barka and areas close to the community of Kfar Darom have called on the nationalist and Islamic forces to stop firing, and especially from firing mortar bombs, from areas close to inhabited houses," the newspaper said. "Firing from densely populated areas just brings damage and destruction to the residents and their property."

Fatah commanders have been urged to end their mortar attacks toward the Gush Katif bloc of Israeli communities in the central Gaza Strip from the nearby cities of Dir El Balah and Khan Yunis.

On Thursday, Palestinian gunners fired five mortars toward Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip. Nobody was injured but Israeli commanders announced the capture of two Palestinians said to be responsible for much of the production of mortars in the Gaza Strip. Later, about 20 Israeli tanks, backed by attack helicopters, entered the southern outskirts of Gaza City near the home of Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin and captured three Palestinians, one of them a PA security officer.

The PA and Palestinian insurgency groups employ a range of mortars. They include the 60 mm, 82 mm and 120 mm mortars. The maximum range of the mortars is said to be about 2.5 kilometers.

Hamas has also deployed the short-range Kassam-class missiles. The Kassam-1 is said to have a range of four kilometers; the Kassam-2, six kilometers; and the Kassam-3, 10 kilometers.

On Wednesday, Israeli attack helicopters fired missiles toward a suspected weapons factory in Gaza City. The factory was said to produce the Kassam missile.

Palestinian sources said the PA has not directly called for an end to mortar attacks against Israel. But PA officials have helped organize forums meant to express opposition to such firings.

"The residents call upon you to take into account the well being of the population and to ensure their security before carrying out any kind of militant action