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EGYPT TRIES TO RESTRAIN PALESTINIAN ONSLAUGHT

Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman May Be Last Chance For Mahmoud Abbas

Israel Masses Forces As Palestinian Terrorists Shell Town Inside Israeli Border

Sharon Holds Off But Will Be Forced To Order In IDF If More Israelis Killed

Israeli Tanks - Gaza

Israel may soon launch a massive ground operation, if the Palestinian terror groups do not halt their massive rocketing from the Gaza Strip. In the past 36 hours, over forty Qassam rockets have slammed into the Israeli town of Sderot inside the Israeli border. Sderot's Mayor Eli Moyel has called on Prime Minister Sharon to postpone next moth's Israeli evacuation from Gaza. Sderot's angry citizens and children, who have been holed up in bomb shelters are demanding that Sharon stop appeasing the Americans and send in the IDF to suppress the Palestinian rocket fire. Seven Israelis, six of them women have been murdered this week in terror attacks. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is to make an urgent trip to the area next week; in the meantime Egyptian Intelligence official Omar Suleiman arrives on the scene to try and persuade the terrorists to stop attacking Israel. Meanwhile, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas ( Abu Mazen ) cannot or will not order his 30,000 armed security personnel to halt the attacks on Israel.

If Egyptian intelligence official Omar Suleiman fails to press the terrorists from halting their shelling from the Gaza Strip, Israel will launch a massive counter-terror operation. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is facing immense pressure to order the IDF to take off the gloves and go on the offensive. Sharon will have no choice if more Israelis are killed by the Palestinian rocketing. Meanwhile, he is giving Mahmoud Abbas the opportunity to act before it is too late. The Cavalry Is Coming: The U.S. , the Europeans and Egypt are all working behind the scenes to try and cool off the situation as IDF forces mass on the Gaza border. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is due at the end of next week; that may be too late. The best shot is Egyptian intelligence official Omar Suleiman who will obviously try and cajole Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the other terror groups to halt their attacks.

Omar Suleiman

Egypt holds more sway over the terror groups than anyone else: their ' Tahdia ' lull in the fighting was worked out with Abbas under Egyptian aegis in Cairo last February. Suleiman can be expected to warn the terrorists they are sabotaging the Palestinian cause and may induce Israel to call off the Gaza evacuation due to start on August 17th. Suleiman may also warn the terror groups they are jeopardizing Egypt's future support if they continue the attacks. What are his chances? He may possibly succeed with Hamas and the others but with Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian equivalent of al Qaeda, it's an open question. In the meantime, there have been several minor clashes between the security forces of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and the terrorists. However, Abbas has not ordered his 30,000 armed security personnel to take on the terrorists once and for all and quell the attacks which he condemns. In other words, the Palestinians still have a dual leadership: the official Palestinian Authority lead by Mahmoud Abbas and the terrorists that are a law unto themselves and attack Israel whenever they see fit.

Why Sderot? This Israeli town is just over the border inside Israel. It has been clobbered by some forty Qassam rockets over in a thirty-six hour period. Fortunately there have been no casualties other than shock. The Palestinians launch their Qassam rockets indiscriminately into the town from just inside the Gaza Strip. Why have there not been more Israeli casualties? It's because of ' Red Dawn' , an early warning system that detects the launching of the Qassams and sets off sirens. It gives Sderot's residents 20 seconds to make it to a bomb shelter. It is an example of an entire town being terrorized and the residents are furious after having to rush repeatedly to bomb shelters with their panic-stricken kids. This as they watch IDF tanks poised on the border but not ordered to enter the Gaza Strip and root out the terrorists. Mayor Eli Moyal has in effect declared a state of emergency: children have been instructed to remain at home, the Macabbia sporting events in Sderot have been canceled and Moyal has called on Prime Minister Sharon to call off Israel's upcoming evacuation of Gaza. The IDF has been carrying out limited operations including the resumption of targeted of terrorist leaders. Amazingly, in attacking Sderot the terrorists are actually making it more difficult for Sharon to carry out his disengagement plans.

The Prime Minister has argued that the withdrawal will improve Israel's overall security, but opponents contend that if the terrorists are shelling without let - up now, what will do after the pull-out ? The current flare-up could be what withdrawal opponent Uzi Landau recently called the development 'on the ground' that could upset Sharon's disengagement plans. The Likud MK says to withdraw now will clearly be rash and reckless on Israel's Israel's part. Cabinet Session: The Prime Minister is obviously feeling the pressure. At the weekly cabinet session, Sharon declared that he has given the IDF orders to act with full force against the terrorists and their leaders. This applies to local air and ground strikes and the targeted killing terrorists and their leaders, such of a Hamas chieftain who was shot dead by an Israeli sniper in Gaza this morning. However, a massive ground operation requires an explicit order from the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister. So far, Sharon has been loath to give that green light before the arrival of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Sharon again made clear that although he wants to reach a peace agreement, ' under no circumstances will there be negotiations with the Palestinians as long as the terror threat continues'.

Several Likud cabinet ministers Naveh and Katz, who oppose the withdrawal, demanded that the IDF launch a massive operation against the terrorists in Gaza. Labor Party minister Yitzhak Herzog said ' a little more time should be given Abbas to halt the attacks' adding that a cease-fire would likely follow Israel's future pull-out from Gaza. Today the residents of Sderot under rocket and mortar fire are demanding that Sharon stop kowtowing to the Bush administration and take off the gloves. What should be clear to the U.S. that Sharon is walking a high-wire no less than Mahmoud Abbas. If there are more Israeli fatalities, Sharon will be forced to order in the IDF no matter what the U.S. thinks. Otherwise, the Prime Minister could face a groundswell of Israeli public opinion that could topple Sharon. In that case, Finance Minister Bibi Netanyahu , who opposes both the evacuation and a Palestinian state, could take office. Palestinian Internal Strife: While there have been several clashes between the Palestinian security forces and the terrorists, Israeli officials say this is for show rather a determined campaign by Mahmoud Abbas to curb the terror organizations. In fact, the terrorists are demanding that Abbas fire his security chief Nasser Yussef for trying to halt the launching of rockets and mortars.

PA Collusion In Netanya?: Yuval Diskin, the head of Israel's Shabak security service, has revealed that the suicide bomber who murdered six Israelis in the town of Netanya this week, left on his mission from a building of the Palestinian Authority in Tul Kerem. The terrorist was believed to have been driven through an Israeli roadblock in a car with Israeli license plates( either in a stolen Israeli vehicle or in a car of an Israeli Arab). In light of this, security checks have been stepped up for all vehicles entering Israel from the West Bank.

Footnote: The Israel intelligence assessment was that the terrorists would ' keep the lid on' with only sporadic attacks in the 30 days or so before the Israeli evacuation of the Gaza Strip and 4 West Bank settlements. The feeling was that the Palestinian Street favored the Israeli withdrawal and would blame the terrorists for upsetting the apple cart if their operations swayed Sharon to call off the pull-out. The greater danger was during the actual withdrawal starting on August 17th, when the terrorists might attack the settlers being evacuated. However, all the terror groups eager to claim credit for driving out Israel, have now leapfrogged this interim period and gone on the offensive. There is no way that Israel can or will sit idly by with only token reactions to the current level of Palestinian provocations. That is why so much depends on the rescue mission of Egypt's Omar Suleiman and America's Condoleezza Rice.

David Essing

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