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IDF CRACK DOWN ON SETTLERS

Chief of Staff Halutz: 'IDF To Carry Out Rulings Against Settlers By Israel's Supreme Court'

'IDF Must Be Prepared For Possibility Of Third Intifada After Palestinian Election'

'Israeli Politicians Split Over Hamas Issue'

Chief of Staff Halutz

Chief of Staff Dan Halutz declared the IDF is about to implement two rulings by Israel's Supreme Court on two illegal settler sites. The illegal Amona outpost on the West Bank would be demolished by January 31st. In addition, illegal Jewish settlers will be evicted from the controversial Hebron market area. In a briefing to the Knesset Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee, General Halutz disclosed there is no agreement on the Gaza terminals after Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz had early implied that there was such a deal with Egypt and the Palestinians.

Israeli security forces are poised to move against two settler flash-points on the West Bank. IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz says the illegal outpost of Amona will be demolished by January 31st and illegal Israeli demonstrators will be evicted from the Hebron market by February 15th. Both operations are in keeping with recent rulings by Israel's Supreme Court.

Referring to the Palestinian general election, Israel's top soldier warned there could be violence between Hamas and Fatah that could spill over against Israel. And he added: 'This is what I meant when I said the IDF must be prepared to cope with a third Palestinian intifada'. The IDF has now called off its counter- terror operations in order to facilitate the Palestinian voting. Only in 'ticking bomb' cases will the Israeli military intervene. Israeli forces have also been withdrawn from Palestinian towns and deployed outside. The IDF has coordinated the moves with Palestinian security forces. This despite the fact that Israeli security forces have intercepted one Palestinian female suicide bomber and smashed a terror cell planning attacks. Although General Halutz expects Fatah to win the close ballot, and Hamas to make a strong showing, the IDF has not adopted any new policy at this point. But how should Israel react if Hamas, which calls for Israel's annihilation, becomes a Palestinian partner? Opposition leader Bibi Netanyahu of Likud has no doubt that Hamas must be rejected:

Sound bite-Netanyahu

However, in Labor there are voices saying Israel should wait and see if a new Hamas is emerging. MK Benyamin Ben Eliezer says Fatah has also had its sights set on destroying Israel:

Sound bite Ben Eliezer

There were fireworks in the committee. The Chief of Staff, in answer to a question, said Israel did not have an agreement with the Palestinians and Egypt on the Gaza crossing points. The IDF was operating according 'to the protocol of talks' that were never finalized. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had visited the area pressing the sides. After she left, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz led the committee to believe that a deal had been worked out. MKs from left and right hauled Mofaz over the coals, accusing him of deliberating deceiving the committee and the country.

Iranian Nuclear Threat: General Halutz said: 'There is nothing new; Iran was determined to perfect its uranium enrichment program'. At the same time, he cautioned against Israelis talking too much about the issue while it was on the front burner of the international community.A senior intelligence officer accused Iranian President Ahmadinejad of more double talk. On one hand, the Iranians had reactivated their centrifuges for enriching uranium while the Iranian leader was telling the Europeans: 'Let's talk'. Tehran's goal was to spread confusion and split the U.S., Europeans, China and Russia that have different interests. Coming up next month is another meeting of the IAEA board of governors in Vienna.

David Essing

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