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SAVING CORPORAL SHALIT

Israel has signaled it will spare no effort to rescue IDF corporal Gilad Shalit

Meanwhile the current crisis casts a shadow over the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation and beyond

Gilad Shalit - The Kidnapped Soldier

The standoff continued between Israel and the Palestinians in the wake of the Palestinian onslaught from the Gaza Strip. After launching more than six hundred Qassam rockets after Israels total evacuation last summer, the terrorists carried out a cross border raid into Israel killing two soldiers and abducting Corporal Gilad Shalit. On the West Bank, terrorists kidnapped and murdered eighteen-year-old Eliyahu Ashri. After giving the Palestinian authorities forty-eight hours to return the soldier, Israel launched operation Summer Rain into the Gaza Strip.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

Israel has signaled it will spare no effort to rescue IDF corporal Gilad Shalit. Meanwhile the current crisis casts a shadow over the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation and beyond.

Halad Mashal

Realizing the gravity of the situation, Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak has now stepped in with all his considerable clout. Mubarak summoned Hamas leader Haled Mashal from Damascus to read him the riot act. Palestinian sources say Mubarak warned Mashal that if he did not release the Israeli soldier, Mashal would bring calamity on the Palestinians. Mashal has demanded that Israel free thousands of Palestinian prisoners in return for corporal Shalit who was abducted in a Palestinian raid into Israel on June 25th. Prime Minister Olmert declared he would not negotiate nor make concessions to terrorists. But at the eleventh hour, Prime Minister Olmert did order the IDF to hold off a major sweep into the northern Gaza Strip where Qassam squads have been launching rockets into Israel. At the same time, the PM's office warned that the Israeli tanks and troops were still poised to move in if the Egyptian mediation effort fails.

Opposition Rebuke: Right wing Knesset Members have sailed into the Prime Minister. MK Avigdor Lieberman of  'Israel Is Our Home' accuses Olmert of blinking first in the confrontation with Hamas. Lieberman charges that the PM is negotiating with the terrorists. The front page of the daily Maariv carries a banner headline: 'Fury in IDF Over Olmert's Delay'. Israeli officials counter by saying the military operation will get the green light if need be. Meanwhile IDF forces operating in the southern Gaza Strip, were trying to locate where Hamas is holding Corporal Shalit. So far, the Israeli forces have not hit any innocent Palestinians nor have they suffered any casualties. This would not likely be the case if the IDF moves into Palestinian towns in the northern Gaza Strip.

'Summer Rain': This first major IDF operation into the Gaza Strip since last summer's evacuation has ramifications far beyond the rescue of the nineteen-year-old soldier. It cuts to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the wake of Israel's unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements. At the time former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made clear his disengagement plan included a powerful deterrent, if the Palestinians exploited the evacuated area for attacking Israel. That is exactly what has happened. First a drizzle of Palestinian rockets turned into a torrent of Qassam and then the cross border raid into Israel that killed two soldiers and abducted a third. Israel is now in the process of redressing the disengagement-deterrent formula. The mission to save Corporal Shalit has turned into a test case for how the Israeli- Palestinian confrontation will be conducted in the future.  

Palestinians: It has been apparent from the start that President Mahmoud Abbas is in effect no more than a kibitzer. His rhetoric about foregoing violence and returning to the Roadmap was no more than empty words if the Palestinians continued to rocket Israel and carry out cross border raids. The Hamas good guy-bad guy routine has also flopped; the international community and even the Arab world are clamoring for the return of the Israeli soldier. Both Abbas and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh were said to have called on the abductors to give up the soldier. But Hamas is ruled from Damascus by Hamas chief Haled Mashal who has refused to free Corporal Shalit. The Palestinian seat of power is not in Ramallah or Gaza but in the Syrian capital. And that is why Israeli jets buzzed the palace of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Israels Defense Minister Amir Peretz has declared: 'The Palestinian costume party is over! Israel will not be duped by some Hamas members masquerading as politicians in suits and ties while others carry out terrorism.'

David Essing

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