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REACTIONS - TEL AVIV BOMBING

PM Sharon: ‘Tel Aviv Bombing Proves No Change In Palestinian Leaders’ Attitude To Terrorism Despite Arafat’s Absence’

IDF Intelligence: ‘Terrorism Will Continue Despite Arafat’s Absence - Arafat Is Seriously Sick With Either a Virus or Cancer’

Tel-Aviv Bombing

Israeli officials say they are not surprised by the latest suicide bombing in Tel Aviv despite the fact that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has been hospitalized in Paris. Three Israelis, two women and a man were murdered when a Palestinian suicide bomber blew up his explosives in the crowded open air Carmel market of Tel Aviv. More than 30 others were injured, some of them seriously. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made clear that he holds Palestinian leaders responsible. At a briefing to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, a senior IDF Intelligence officer spoke of the terrorism continuing despite Arafat’s absence. Although Israel has a lot of details, it is not enough for a diagnosis of the Palestinian leader’s condition.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is thought to be seriously ill in a Paris hospital, but this makes no difference to the terrorists in the territories. One of their many suicide bombers finally got through, murdering three Israelis and injuring more than 30 others in Tel Aviv. David Essing reporting:

So far, despite Arafat’s absence, it is still more of the same. The Palestinian leadership is letting the terrorists run wild, and although more than 90 percent of the attacks are foiled by Israeli security, all it took was for one suicide bomber to make it through the road blocks to the crowded Carmel market in Tel Aviv.

At the same time, in Jerusalem, Prime minister Ariel Sharon was attending a Knesset debate on a compensation bill for Israeli settlers to be evacuated from the Gaza Strip next year. Later, in the Likud Knesset caucus, Sharon sent a message loud and clear to Palestinian leaders Abu Ala and Abu Mazen who have taken over for Arafat. Sharon said the latest bombing proves there has been no change in the attitude of the Palestinian leadership to the terrorists. Israel has not and will not let up in her campaign against the murderous terrorism. Until the Palestinian took real steps to eliminate the terrorism, Israel would not change her policy. The Prime Minister added that Israel would not accept lip service condemnations: the Palestinians must fulfill their commitment to dismantle the terror organizations and halt incitement. Both Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Ala and Arafat issued statements condemning the Tel Aviv attack.

The facts - this year alone, Israeli security forces have foiled 130 suicide bombers about to set out on attacks inside Israel - this includes 10 women. Nor has there been any real drop in terror alerts - at any given moment there are some 40 to 50. For this reason, Israel’s counter-terror campaign will continue - that was the message from Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz shortly before the Tel Aviv bombing. He was briefing the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

A senior IDF intelligence officer also said the terrorism was expected to continue despite Arafat’s absence. He went on to say that Arafat is very ill - it was either a virus or a type of cancer that has not been identified yet. Although Israel has many details, it was not enough to form a clear diagnosis.

The officer described three scenarios:

  1. Arafat returns to take control - Israel could expect more of the same terrorism and violence
  2. Arafat hospitalized indefinitely - in this ‘twilight’ period the terrorists would refuse to give up their weapons and there would be no real change
  3. Arafat departs one way or another - who would lead? Probably the Old Guard of the Fatah organization teaming up with ‘middle aged’ leaders who would try and carry out security and economic reforms. In any case, a Palestinian civil war was not being anticipated. Defense Minister Mofaz spoke of both prospects and dangers, if Arafat does go and Israel had to prepare for every contingency.

What appears near certain is that if Sharon had any idea about easing up the counter-terror campaign as a gesture to Palestinian leaders that has now gone by the board. The latest atrocity in Tel Aviv has seen to that.

And this footnote: the Likud caucus found Prime Minister Sharon and his ‘rebel’ Finance Minister Netanyahu sitting at the same table. If the warm handshake between the two is any indicator, Netanyahu will not carry out his threat to quit the cabinet if Sharon does not agree to a national referendum of disengagement.

David Essing

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