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‘DEFENSIVE SHIELD’ IN GAZA?

Palestinian Terror Continues From Gaza After Suicide Bombing Murders Six Israelis

PM Sharon: ‘Palestinian President Abbas Is Not Lifting A Finger To Halt Terrorism’

Israeli Analysts: ‘Time Is Running Out, Israel May Have No Alternative To Massive IDF Operation In Gaza’

Terrorists

There has been no let up in the Palestinian terror attacks from the Gaza Strip. On Thursday night, Palestinian suicide bombers blew up Israel’s Karni terminal murdering six Israeli civilians. The terminal is used to transport medicine and food to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Since then, Palestinians have launched more Qassam rockets and mortars at Israeli towns and villages. One seventeen-year-old girl was critically wounded in Sderot while shielding her ten-year-old brother who was seriously hurt. After suspending all contacts with the new Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Sharon told the Israeli cabinet: ‘The Palestinian leader is not lifting a finger to halt the terrorism’.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

Since, the election of 'moderate' Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on January 9th, the terrorism has actually escalated from the Gaza Strip. Time is quickly running out, and a massive IDF operation may be in the offing in the Gaza Strip if Abbas does not act quickly to halt the terrorism.

Instead of quelling the Palestinian violence, there is now a terrorist free for all from Gaza Strip. First, a bloody suicide bombing and now the indiscriminate shelling of Israeli civilians by Qassam rockets and mortars inflict more casualties. Although, Prime Minister Sharon has suspended all contacts with new Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, it may not be enough.

Sderot Mourners

Unless there is a swift halt to the terrorist escalation, there may be no alternative to a massive IDF operation in the Gaza Strip. The IDF has reacted to the current attacks by local ground operations and 'surgical' air strikes. The IDF say nineteen terrorists have been hit. However, Prime Minister Sharon says the government has imposed 'no restraints' on the IDF if the terrorism continues. Sharon told the new Likud-Labor cabinet: 'Mahmoud Abbas is not lifting a finger to halt the terrorism'.

Israeli Options - IDF Gen.(ret.) Yaacov Amidror told the Yediot Ahronot newspaper there are three:"First, the 'Oslo Way', retreat from the territory, decrease friction and press the Palestinians to stop the terrorists. Israel tried this until it cost us 140 Israeli fatalities a month in 2002.Second: to continue our policy in the Gaza Strip over the last four years. To enter and pull out depending on the current pressure and make the Palestinians 'pay a price' for the terrorism.

The third approach is the one Israel adopted after we suffered the 140 fatalities a month. By launching 'Operation Defensive Shield' in the West Bank in April 2002, Israel nullified the results of the Oslo Agreement. We retook control of Judea and Samaria and increased 'friction' with the Palestinians. The results are clear to all; there is much less terror in and from Judea and Samaria and far fewer casualties both Israeli and Palestinian. When the army was allowed to win, it did. There is no shelling of the Israeli town of Kfar Saba from the nearby Palestinian town of Kalkilya."

The retired general goes on to say that every approach has its price."The conquest of the Gaza Strip will cost victims, but only the retaking of the area will allow us to win the war against terrorism. It is impossible to defeat terrorism without control on the ground. This realization took the Americans to Afghanistan and the IDF to Jenin. If we wish to defeat terrorism in Gaza, the conclusion is clear."Cabinet Reaction: At the first weekly cabinet session, nearly all ministers, including left-wing Laborites, supported Sharon's suspending of contacts with Mahmoud Abbas. Labor's Shalom Simchon was the only one who said Abbas must be given more time to prove he means business about stopping terrorism. But even Labor Party leader Shimon Peres says 'The tactics of Abbas are not what count, it's whether he gets results'. Another Laborite, Haim Ramon charged that Abbas has the power of thirty thousand armed policemen to take on the terrorists; the question is whether he is willing. However, Ramon argues it's best for Israel to actually speed up the withdrawal from Gaza set for next July. The Likud's Zachi Hanegbi has no doubts; Mahmoud Abbas is another Yasser Arafat - 'without a uniform or whiskers'.

Footnotes: Israeli security officials are now certain that Palestinian policemen actually collaborated in the suicide-bombing attack, which murdered six Israelis at the Karni terminal on Thursday night. A truck loaded with over three hundred pounds of explosives drove through Palestinian security on the Gaza side with three armed suicide bombers inside.

Look for the IDF to now step up counter-terror operations including targeted killings of terrorists and their controllers. Israeli officials repeated that President Abbas must deploy his armed policemen to stop the launching of Qassam rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians. They warn that the indiscriminate shelling will be stopped one way or the other! The other could mean a 'Defensive Shield Operation' in Gaza in the future.

The current violence has the potential for unraveling Sharon's disengagement plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements this summer. A further Palestinian escalation could lead to the fall of the government and an early election.

David Essing

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