Designed to fly farther and strike harder than other makeshift missiles, it is also a powerful symbol of an arms race that defies hopes that Arafat’s death could be a catalyst for peace.
“Al-Yasser rockets show our love and admiration for our historical leader and symbol of our fight against occupation,” said Abu Qusai, a leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.
The militant factions in the intensifying race to build better weapons are not only struggling to bloody Israel, but also face competition against each other to prove their strength and stake a claim to power in the post-Arafat era.
Israel’s plan to withdraw troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip this year and leave it solely in Palestinian hands will only encourage more and better rockets to be developed for use against Israeli towns and cities.
“The current competition aims to prepare the ground in the absence of an internal Palestinian political agreement,” said Palestinian political analyst Hani Habib. Violence soared in the Gaza Strip after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced that he planned to withdraw from the fenced-in territory captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
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