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Israel Will Disarm Gaza Settlers

Defense Minister Mofaz: 'At The Last Moment, Israel Will Disarm Gaza Settlers One Way Or the Other!'

'If Palestinians Open Fire During Evacuation, IDF Will Take Control Of Firing Areas'

The Rice Visit: Will U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Again Praise Mahmoud Abbas, While He Allows Terrorists To Prepare New Round Of Violence?

DM Shaul Mofaz

Israel's Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz took the wraps off plans for the upcoming Israeli evacuation of the Gaza Strip and 4 settlements in the northern West Bank. The unilateral evacuation is planned to start shortly after August 15th. In the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Mofaz also disclosed that call-up orders are now being issued to IDF reservists who are to participate in the evacuation of some 8.000 settlers from their homes.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz says 'All systems are go!' for the evacuation of the Gaza Strip and 4 West Bank settlements. Mofaz warned that Israeli security forces will crack down hard on Israeli settlers who do not hand over their weapons and on Palestinian terrorists who open fire during the upcoming withdrawal. The minister says all contingencies are being considered.

Israeli Settlers

Israeli settlers: At the last moment, Israeli settlers in the evacuated areas will be called upon to hand in their IDF weapons. Mofaz hopes the settlers will act with 'maturity and understanding'. If they do not, this order will be 'enforced'. The idea is that Israeli policemen, who will be in the inner circle evicting the settlers, will not be armed in order to avert an accidental opening of fire. The Israeli police will deal with the private handguns of settlers which are registered. The Defense Minister also called on families who might resist the evacuation to send out their children. He explained that when Israel evacuated Sinai, children suffered trauma from seeing their families clashing with Israeli troops and police. As for the settlers' homes and other buildings, Mofaz said they should not be demolished. The demolition alone would take an extra 3 months after the evacuation put IDF soldiers at risk in the Gaza Strip. But if the government sticks with an earlier decision to destroy the buildings, the IDF would be ready.

Palestinian Attacks: The Defense Minister warned if Palestinians open fire while Israeli civilians were being evacuated, the IDF will move into areas of the Gaza Strip needed to suppress the attacks. This he said could lead to the unraveling of the Sharm el Sheik understandings and Mofaz had conveyed this warning to Palestinian security officials. Mofaz also recommended that the Palestinian authority deploy their security forces in areas commanding the evacuation routes to prevent any terror attacks.

Post-Disengagement: Will there be a new flare-up of terrorism from the West Bank? This depends of different factors. The terror groups may carry out attacks from what they see as 'legitimate' areas such as the Philadelfi Axis where IDF troops will remain in a narrow security buffer to prevent arms smuggling from Egypt into the Gaza Strip. Then again, if the terrorists improve their offensive capacity with more Qassam rockets etc., they might be tempted to use them. IDF Brigadier Yossi Kupperwasser also said the 'political horizon' will impact on the situation as well as internal tension among the Palestinians. The former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon has warned if the Palestinians didn't get their way they would launch a new and more violent war of terrorism. Defense Minister Mofaz called this a 'worst case scenario and not necessarily what might happen'. In any case, the IDF would be ready to cope and it would actually be easier on the ground because the settlers would not be there.

Mahmoud Abbas: The Palestinians were pleased over the warm reception Abbas was accorded by President George W. Bush in the White House. Hamas and even Islamic Jihad, to some extent, were playing ball by cutting down terror attacks; this is likely to continue until the Israeli withdrawal. In his assessment, the IDF officer cracked that the greatest asset of Abbas was actually the Israeli security force that intercepted two suicide bombers before they blew up Israeli civilians in Jerusalem last week. (If they had, Abbas would have been in deep trouble.) Meanwhile all the terror groups are preparing 'off the shelf’ attacks that can be organized very quickly, if the order is given.

Defensive Shield #2: In light of the terrorist build-up under the protection of the current ‘Tahdia' cease-fire, committee chairman Yuval Steinitz of the Likud calls for a Defensive Shield #2 to destroy the terror infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. In April 2002, the IDF launched Defensive Shield #1 on the West Bank, after scores of Israelis were murdered and wounded by Palestinian suicide bombers. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz is opposed: ‘I reject such an operation in Gaza, unless there is no alternative to protecting Israeli civilians.'

Condoleezza Rice

Secretary Condoleezza Rice: What are the expectations for the secretary's upcoming visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Privately, Israeli officials are a little worried the Bush Administration may be shifting its no-nonsense approach to Palestinian terrorism. During the recent visit by President Abbas to the White House, President Bush all but ignored the fact that Abbas is not doing a thing to crack down on Hamas and the other terror groups. With U.S. General Ward stationed in the area, Washington must be well aware of the build-up by the terror organizations. But rather than cracking down on the terrorists, Abbas is really in cahoots with them by inviting them to participate in the Palestinian elections. The Palestinian leader himself is now alarmed by the recent Hamas victories in municipal elections and has postponed the all-important ballot for the Palestinian parliament.By delaying the election until after the Israeli withdrawal, Abbas apparently thinks he can cash in on the credit for the pullout. But will the Secretary of State make clear that the U.S. does not tolerate terror organizations anywhere and that Mahmoud Abbas must dismantle them? This does not seem to be the drift from Washington and that is why some Israeli officials say they are perplexed. The view from Jerusalem is that President Bush praised Abbas for resisting the terrorists while the Palestinian leader enables them to regroup and prepare a new round of violence against Israel.

David Essing

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