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HAMAS FLARE-UP

Despite Cease-fire, Israel Decides To React With Precision Strikes Against Palestinian Terrorists Who Carry Out More Attacks on Israeli Settlements In Gaza Strip

Deputy Defense Minister Boim: 'One Way Or The Other, Palestinian Attacks Must Stop Before Israeli Withdrawal From Gaza; If Mahmoud Abbas Doesn't Act We Will!'

Hamas Spokesman: 'The Cease-fire Is Fragile Because Israel Is Not Keeping Her Commitments: We Have Not Decided Officially To End Cease-fire'

Hamas Terrorists

The 'Tahdia' cease-fire is now in danger of collapsing after Hamas terrorists launched their biggest assault since February. One Israeli civilian was wounded by shrapnel and some damage was caused. Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim has declared that Israel will not carry out the upcoming Gaza withdrawal under fire; the IDF would first have to cope with the Palestinian violence.

Prime Minister Sharon

Israel has decided to carry out pinpoint strikes against Palestinian terrorists who have been attacking Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip. This follows the massive shelling by Hamas this week. The decision was taken at urgent security consultations called by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Israeli officials say Israel still wishes to preserve the cease-fire but will not sit idly while Hamas shells Israeli settlers in the Gaza Strip. Sharon has warned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that Hamas shelling in the Gaza Strip must stop immediately. The change in Israeli policy follows an overnight barrage of some 30 mortars and Qassam rockets at Israeli settlements; one Israeli civilian was injured by shrapnel and some damage was caused. Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim left no doubt that time is running for the current 'cease-fire' unless Abbas acts quickly and effectively to end the escalation by Hamas.

Hamas Flare-up: It began 48 hours ago; a Hamas terrorist in the border area between the Gaza Strip and Egypt was blown up, apparently when the bomb he was carrying detonated accidentally. Hamas blamed the IDF for shooting the terrorist to death. Since then Hamas has steadily escalated its mortar and Qassam attacks against Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip. After one of the mortars landed near a school, an Israel Air Force missile hit two Palestinians preparing to launch more mortars. One of the terrorists died of his wounds. It was the first Israeli air strike since the 'cease-fire' went into force last February. This triggered a massive Hamas shelling; at lease 30 mortars and Qassam rockets were launched at Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip. One Qassam even landed across the border in Israel's Negev area. The Hamas spokesman says the terrorists have not decided officially to break the 'Tahdia' truce which is fragile because Israel is not keeping her commitments.'.

Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim

Israeli reaction: 2 Israeli reaction: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz have sent urgent warnings to Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas that he must act immediately to halt the Hamas shelling. An Israeli official also says Israel has been acting with restraint to avert an escalation but time is running out! Prime Minister Sharon is to hold urgent consultations with defense officials on the deterioration. Previously, Sharon has said: 'There will be no disengagement from Gaza under Palestinian fire!' The Israeli evacuation from Gaza and 4 Samaria settlements is planned for the second half of August.Interviewed on Israel Radio, Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim declared: 'Israel will not pay the price for the internal Palestinian dispute between Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas. Boim repeated: 'It is out of the question that the IDF evacuate Israeli settlers under a hail of Palestinian mortar and rocket fire!' Israel would first have to cope with the Palestinian terrorism and only then go through with the evacuation. Israel has decided unilaterally on the disengagement and Boim said this did not depend on actions by the other side although wished to coordinate the evacuation with Abbas.

Why now? 3 Why now? The Hamas offensive is apparently linked to internal Palestinian developments and disputes in the Palestinian electoral process. Hamas, which is now a player in the elections, has cried foul after a Palestinian court disqualified a Hamas victory in Rafah in the recent municipal ballot. Hamas is sending a message to the Palestinian leadership that if provoked internally, it will react by attacking Israel and jeopardizing the Abbas cease-fire with Sharon. Boim went on to say the Palestinian leader has deployed security forces and replaced security chiefs who were appointed by Arafat. Earlier this week, Shabak Security Chief Yuval Diskin said Abbas has the power to rein in Hamas but the Palestinian leader feels he lacks 'Palestinian legitimation to do so'. Case in point: when Palestinian policemen tried to prevent terrorists from launching mortars at Israeli settlements, the policemen were stoned by a mob of local Palestinians. TV footage showed the incident in which 3 Palestinian policemen in the Khan Yunis were injured.

U.S.: The Israeli reaction has been restrained due to Sharon's desire to 'play ball' with President Bush who is interested in the cease-fire leading into the Roadmap peace process. The Prime Minister can be expected to try and keep the lid on and prevent a further escalation. But there is one red line that would spark a major IDF reaction; if one of those mortars or Qassams kills and wounds Israelis. Deputy Defense Minister Boim was asked if Washington was being apprised by Jerusalem that time is running out for the 'cease-fire'. Boim replied: 'The U.S. supports fighting terrorism wherever it crops up in the world, it would be out of the question that it not do so here as well'.

David Essing

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