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ISRAEL SEEKS NEW SOLUTIONS

PM Olmert: 'Israel Will Know How To Respond To Suicide Bombing In Tel Aviv'

Former Israeli Security Official: 'Situation May Get Worse Before It Gets Better'

Israel Seeks New Tactics To Supress Terrorism After Withdrawal From Gaza

Bomb Site (Photo: Raanan Cohen)

Hours before Israeli Knesset members took their oath of office in Jerusalem, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself in Tel Aviv. The sixteen-year old member of Islamic Jihad picked a crowded shuarma snack bar. Within hours of the explosion, nine people were dead. More than sixty others were wounded.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

It may get worse before it gets better - thats the reaction of a former senior Israeli security official. The latest Palestinian suicide bombing was obviously timed for Tel Aviv as Israeli Knesset members were about to be sworn in in Jerusalem.

Suicide Bomber

The official says the Palestinian Authority now run by Hamas is doing nothing to halt the terrorism. Todays suicide bomber came - as no surprise. There are constant alerts about more raids in the pipeline. The sixteen-year old primed Palestinian is believed to have started out from the West Bank town of Nablus and crossed into east Jerusalem where Israels security fence has not been completed. Then he was likely driven to Tel Aviv. That same snack bar was hit by a suicide bomber three months ago. Despite todays severe casualties, the Israeli security forces have been highly successful in foiling suicide bombers from the West Bank. A former Shabak security chief Ami Ayalon says its always tough when a suicide killer gets through the net. How he did is now the painstaking job added the new Labor MK. Speaking in the Knesset before the swearing in of the new members, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared: Israel will know how to respond to the suicide bombing. But the fact is that Olmert is now in a double bind. In the Gaza Strip, terrorists continue to launch Qassam rockets at Israeli towns and villages. They do so from the territory evacuated by Israel last summer and from inside populated Palestinian areas. The Israeli response has been random shelling of the Palestinian launch sites to disrupt the terrorists. But the Qassams keep coming and the Israeli civilians under fire are fed up. Their lives have also been made miserable by the booming of nearby Israeli artillery firing back at the Palestinians.

Until recently, the primitive homemade Qassams were not considered to be that big a problem. But no longer, the nerves of Israeli civilians are wearing thin. The long-distance tactics of the Israeli security forces have not been able to suppress the rocket fire. Prime Minister Olmert, the champion of unilateral withdrawal, does not rule out the possibility of sending IDF troops back into Gaza. He is naturally loath to do so because it undercuts his position about going it alone and pulling out if there is no Palestinian partner to negotiate with. Its either that or coming up with some new high-tech solutions to spot and hit the terrorists launching the rockets. Senior IDF officers have been hinting this is now in the works. Israel is the only country with Arrow, an anti-missile system that can knock out incoming sophisticated ballistic missiles. So security experts say Israel certainly has the capability to develop a defense system to cope with homemade rockets. This would be a matter of time and money.

Knesset Inauguration

The suicide bombing came just hours before the new Knesset was sworn in. Acting Speaker Shimon Peres of Kadima, an ardent advocate of peace talks with the Palestinians, was not optimistic about the Hamas election victory. Peres said it had cut chances for a peace agreement in the near future. But he also doubted that a Hamas government could rule. First, it rejected Israels right to exist and Peres queried: How is it possible to conduct contacts with a government that declares it wants to destroy you? Moreover, if Hamas did not recognize existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians what sense would there be in signing new ones? At the same time, Hamas was seeking foreign aid but who would agree to pay those who negate peace and promulgate violence.

And this footnote: It was the first time that a major terror attack occurred during the inauguration of a new Knesset. It highlighted what must be Prime Minister Olmerts top priority of suppressing Palestinian terrorism as he goes about forging a new coalition government.

David Essing

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