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IDF Chief Of Staff Halutz: I Will Not Advise Government To Reoccupy Gaza Strip Despite Qassam Rockets

Hamas-Fatah Fued Will Not Escalate Into Civil War

Iran Could Acquire Nuclear Weapons Capability By 2009 Or 2010

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz

In a briefing to the Knesset Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz has assessed the Palestinian threat and the bloody feud between Hamas and Fatah. Gen. Halutz also disclosed that Iran could acquire a nuclear capability by the year 2009.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz says: Despite the Qassam rocket attacks I will not advise the Israeli government to reconquer the Gaza Strip.

Gen. Halutz was replying to queries from Knesset members on what was being done to stem the continous rocketing of Israeli comunities. In the town of Sderot this week, a Qassam scored a direct hit on a school classroom. Miraculously, the pupils were at prayers; otherwise there could have been a massacre. Halutz added that even if Israeli forces deploy in the town square of Gaza city, he could not guarantee that terrorists could not launch Qassams from other sites. The IDF was working on high-tech solutions to prevent the rocketing; at present its radar could detect the location of the launch and where the rocket lands. In recent months, counter-terror operations had killed 38 terrorists; half of them were hit while launching Qassams. Seventy-two percent of the rockets landed in Israel the rest blew up inside the Gaza Strip. While all the terror groups were trying to increase the range and accuracy of the Qassams, the Islamic Jihad was leading the suicide bombing attacks. However, Israels counter-tactics of artillery fire, targeted killing and arrests were helping to suppress Palestinian attacks. For example, Jihad chief Ibrahim Hamed, who was just caught by the IDF in Ramallah, was responsible for killing no less than 50 Israelis over the years. Last year, 54 Israelis were killed by terror strikes. This year the death toll is down to nineteen. Since the start of the Palestinian intifada in September 2000, some 1,100 Israelis have been murdered. Thousands of others have been wounded.

Palestinian terrorists launching rockets

Gaza Strip Is Arming: A senior IDF intelligence officer revealed that large amounts of explosives and weapons have been smuggled into the Gaza Strip since all Israeli forces and settlers withdrew last September. For example, six and a half tons of TNT as well as dozens of rocket-propelled grenade launchers and other weaponry. These supplies were coming in from Egyptian controlled Sinai and by sea. However, the Egyptians were now taking very effective actions to plug this pipeline. But as Gen. Halutz put it: The Gaza Strip is arming for more terror attacks.

Suicide Bombers: Of the 19 Israelis killed this year, 11 were murdered by a Palestinian suicide bomber who blew himself up in the old Tel Aviv bus station recently. The officer said all the suicide bombers from the West Bank are transported into Israel by Arab cars bearing Israeli license plates. In most cases, the collaborators are residents of East Jerusalem. Therefore, from now on they will be permitted to transport only first-degree relatives through checkpoints.

Possibility of Palestinian Civil War? Gen. Halutz doesnt think so. Neither Hamas nor Fatah wants to decide their power struggle by force. While a dialogue of fire has erupted between the two groups it would not spill over into all out civil war. There was no starvation or humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian areas as a result of the cutoff in foreign aid after the election of the Hamas government. But it was by no means certain that the international pressure would lead to the fall of the Hamas regime.

Farther afield, IDF intelligence has no information that World Jihad attacks on Israel are being planned by terrorist chief Zarqawi in Iraq. As for Iran, it would pose a threat to Israels existence only when it acquired nuclear weapons and the necessary delivery system. Gen. Halutz said unless stopped, Tehran would have a nuclear strike capability by 2009 or 2010. The American assessment puts the date at about 2012.

David Essing

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