Saturday, July 01, 2006

Friday, June 30, 2006

Funeral of Murdered 18-Year-Old Eliyahu Asheri

Follow this link to take a few moments to reflect on the funeral of a true martyr in this Photo Essay by Hillel Fendel and Ezra HaLevi from Arutz Sheva, Jun 29, '06 / 3 Tammuz 5766 ...






Members of Eliyahu's family at the funeral in Jerusalem.



Thousands of people, including both chief rabbis and other notables, attended the funeral of Eliyahu Asheri, kidnapped and murdered by Arab terrorists. Arutz-7 brings photos from the funeral.

Roads in Jerusalem were closed in honor of the funeral, which is to end with the youth's burial in the Mt. of Olives cemetery.

Eliyahu's teachers and family, one after the other, spoke about what a sweet person he was. Over and over it was mentioned that Eliyahu's prayers were "like fire.""You went up to Heaven in a storm, like Eliyahu (Elijah) the prophet," Eliyahu's mother Miriam eulogized, in a calm and determined voice.

...Eliyahu had not been seen since Sunday night, and only Monday afternoon did it become fairly clear that he had been kidnapped. By then, however, he was already dead - even while volunteers searched throughout Judea and Samaria for traces of his presence. In the end, it was the murderer himself who led the Israeli security authorities to the body, in a field outside Ramallah, north of Jerusalem. The terrorist was among those apprehended in a round of IDF arrests made throughout Judea and Samaria on Wednesday. He was interrogated by the General Security Services, during which he revealed how and where he and his gang members shot Eliyahu in the head from close range, shortly after they abducted him on Sunday night. Others connected to the kidnapping and murder are still being interrogated.

Eliyahu's mother Miriam told Voice of Israel Radio this morning,
"At this time, I do have not much to say, for the pain is so unbearable; I can barely find a way to hold it. But one thing I can say is that many times in the past years, because of the many disagreements-between-brothers we have in this country, many times I asked G-d to give me, first of all, love in my heart for everyone. And now, following this terrible thing that happened to us, it has become clear to me how really great the Nation of Israel is - how much help we have received, and all the volunteers, and the army - there are no words to describe it... And this was the way of Eliyahu as well..."

....Rabbi Druckman said at the funeral that sometimes funerals are like sunsets, but that Eliyahu's passing is like the sun going dark at noontime. "This is not just a private funeral, but one belonging to all of Israel," he said. "His murderers intended to kill any one of us and all of us."

...Eliyahu, 18, was from the Shomron town of Itamar and was a student at the pre-military yeshiva academy in N'vei Tzuf, in the western Binyamin area. He was last seen at 9 PM Sunday at the French Hill junction in northern Jerusalem, where hundreds of people wait for rides northward every day.

...Rabbi Ronsky said, "It is now clear that they murdered Eliyahu very soon after they kidnapped him, and all their announcements and threats afterwards were merely psychological pressure against us." The Popular Resistance Committees of Ramallah, under the supervision of the terrorist group of the same name in Gaza, announced Monday - after Eliyahu was already dead - that they would murder him if Israel did not withdraw its forces from Gaza.

IDF delays entry into northern Strip

From Ynet News 29/6/06 by Hanan Greenberg ...

Soldiers stationed in field informed on cancellation of operation planned for Thursday night. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert convenes security consultation; decision to delay entry to northern Strip possibly related to diplomatic efforts

...Defense Minister Amir Peretz said earlier that "we are now in one of the most significant moments in terms of determining the rules of the game between us and the terror groups in the Palestinian Authority in the near future."

Peretz approved the plans and the only remaining question is how and when they will be implemented. The IDF operation in Dahaniya in south Gaza is limited. The minute the large troops enter northern Gaza, the operation will take a new aspect, including the deployment of the Air Force.

...Peretz asked that Egypt use its sway Palestinian groups to return the kidnapped soldier alive, and convince Palestinian commanders to halt rocket fire. Peretz said earlier that although diplomatic efforts are yet to bear fruits, dipomacy may gain momentum.

"I wish to send a message to every sovereign state who is responsible for terror elements acting within its territory that we don't need to make a list every morning of who's a terrorist and who isn't," Peretz said. "I hope that everyone who has influence on the Hamas leadership, from Haniyeh to al-Zahar and Khaled Mashaal, will use it immediately, because the sooner it is acted the better. Return the soldier, stop Qassam fire. If this happens, we will return our soldiers to their bases," he said.

During a ceremony at the Hatzerim air base, IDF Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General Dan Halutz said: "Air Force people, you are doing your professional duties at the highest possible level. Yes, there are mistakes sometimes from which we learn and correct. We didn't choose terror."

Halutz said Israel should not wait for citizens to be killed in terror attack emanating from the Gaza Strip before launching a defensive operation, warning Palestinian terrorists that the army will get them before they launch their attacks.

"The citizens of Israel cannot allow themselves to become hostages of terror rockets and kidnappings of soldiers and citizens," he said......

Peres: Hamas members will stand trial
Vice Premier Shimon Peres told CNN: "We have no intention of entering Gaza to reoccupy it, but someone has to implement law and order there. There are many groups operating there, firing rockets at Israel for no reason. We want the Palestinians themselves to be in control. We left Gaza willingly and we paid a heavy human and financial price."

Peres was asked why would members of the Palestinian government be arrested if not to be used as bargaining ships?

"Because terror groups are trying to extort Israel. They have to decide if they are a legitimate government or members of a terror group. Their arrest is not arbitrary. They will stand trial and they will be able to defend themselves," he said.

"There was hope that Hamas would change its policies once in government and will become more responsible. They are a big disappointment. They became part of their terrorist arm, they have been acting as they always did, and they believe Israel will suffer from this quietly.

"We left Gaza completely. There isn't a single soldier in Gaza. They can manage Gaza without our interference. But instead they crossed the border, they kidnapped one of our soldiers for no reason and killed another two, so if we ignore this, it will become a habit," he explained.

Peres was also asked why exert collective punishment against the Palestinian people for the release of one soldier.

"It's not one soldier. It is a policy. Hamas wants to kill any chance for peace and to forward terror as an alternative for peace. We are carrying out this operation with utmost carefulness. Until now not a single person was killed in Gaza. It is not by coincidence. It is because our army made sure this doesn't happen. It is all in the hands of the Palestinians. They are punishing themselves for no reason, believe me," Peres concluded.

Israel on target in Gaza response

From The Australian, Editorial, June 30, 2006 ....

Palestinian terrorists' tactics can no longer be tolerated YET again it is ordinary Palestinians who will be the biggest losers in the latest outrage by terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

Israel's military strike at the heart of Gaza following the kidnapping of 19-year-old Corporal Gilad Shalit is exactly right. Even more so with yesterday's news that Palestinian terrorists killed a young Jewish settler seized from the West Bank at the weekend.

In June last year, Ehud Olmert, then Israel's deputy prime minister, declared the Jewish state was tired of fighting and wanted a new partnership with its difficult neighbour. The election of the terrorist organisation Hamas to replace Fatah at the Palestinian Authority helm pulled the rug from under his words.

To his credit, however, as Prime Minister Mr Olmert has shown considerable restraint in recent months in the face of a daily barrage of Palestinian rocketfire into Israel from Hamas's Qassam rocket sites.

Sunday's assault on a military post inside Israeli territory by members of three terror organisations – Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees and the Islamic Army – was a bridge too far. Two Israeli soldiers died in the attack, another was severely wounded and Corporal Shalit was captured. By Monday, Mr Olmert had jettisoned his conciliatory rhetoric, signalling the time for restraint had passed.

According to Israel, its military response in bombing raids and sending tanks into Gaza is designed not to punish Palestinians, but to pressure the terrorists responsible into delivering Corporal Shalit safely back to his family. Good. No one but the terrorists is responsible for the consequences for Palestinian civilians of their senseless and provocative act.

Israeli missiles knocked out 60 per cent of Gaza's electricity – a fresh blow for a people already reeling under the move by Western nations to cut off funds to the Hamas administration. As they light candles and try to cook without power they will perhaps recall the votes they cast in the January election.

If the short-term consequences of the kidnapping bring pain to Gaza, the long-term consequences for Palestinians could be even more brutal. With Mr Olmert threatening extreme measures if Corporal Shalit is not returned, a bloody conflict with high civilian casualties and political anarchy could be the result. The terrorists' aim in their brazen raid is transparent: to throw into tumult negotiations between the political wing of Hamas and Fatah, represented respectively by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and President Mahmoud Abbas, to recognise Israel. Last month, members of factions of both organisations serving sentences in Israeli prisons – many for their role in organising the slaughter of civilians – issued a statement calling for a coalition government and implicitly accepted Israel's existence. This week, before Israel moved its troops into Gaza, both leaders signed a document accepting the idea of a Palestinian state on the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem – meaning recognition of Israel next to it.

The weak position of both Mr Abbas and Mr Haniyeh within the chaos that characterises Palestinian politics and its factions means the deal may be worth less than the paper it is written on.

Demonstrating the point, Hamas moved quickly to deny it had agreed to recognise Israel.

For its part, Israel rolled its tanks into Gaza, Israeli forces arrested the Palestinian Authority's Deputy Prime Minister and its jets buzzed the summer residence of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a warning over the refuge he provides the hardline leader of Hamas's military wing, Khaled Meshaal, the possible mastermind behind the kidnapping.

Mr Abbas's remaining credibility is at stake. The President must assert his authority and send the soldier home.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Israel detains senior Hamas officials

From Ynet news, 29/6/06 by Ali Waked ....

Hamas government ministers, parliament members and activists arrested by Israeli forces operating in number of West Bank towns in what appears to be an attempt to ‘decapitate’ organization’s leadership; top Hamas members in Gaza go into hiding. Hamas spokesman: Arrests grave precedent, international crime and open declaration of war against Palestinian people
In a swift operation carried out throughout the West Bank and the Jerusalem area early Thursday Israeli forces apprehended some 60 Hamas government ministers, parliament members and activists in what appears to be an attempt to “decapitate” the organization’s leadership.

During the operation forces received word that the body of kidnapped settler teen Eliyahu Asheri was found in Ramallah.

Among those arrested during the operation, which began shortly after midnight in Ramallah, Nablus, Qalqilya, Jenin and Jerusalem, are Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Nasser al-Shaer, Hamas government Labor Minister Muhammad Barghouti, Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Khaled Abu Arfa and many other top officials. Senior Hamas members Mahmoud Abu Tir and Mahmoud Atuan were apprehended in Jerusalem; most of the Palestinian Legislative Council members on Hamas’ behalf were also detained in various West Bank cities.

....Leading Hamas members in Gaza went into hiding after hearing of the West Bank arrests.


Half of them were arrested. Hamas government members (Photo: AP)

...Palestinian sources said IDF forces surrounded a Ramallah building in which all Hamas parliament members, including Parliament Speaker Abdel Aziz Dweik, were convening and called on the lawmakers to give themselves up. Forces also encircled the Ramallah homes of senior Hamas council members, including that of Parliament Secretary Mahmoud Al-Ramahi.

Palestinian sources added that Israeli forces have also detained senior Fatah member Nazia Safi, a Preventive Security Force officer.

Palestinian sources said the IDF also apprehended top Hamas officials in other West Bank towns: Two parliament members were detained in Bethlehem, six senior group members were arrested in Jenin and several others, including Minister for Wakf Affairs Nayef Rajoub, were caught in the Hebron area. The Hamas-appointed mayor of Qalqilya, who was released from an Israeli prison last month, was also apprehended along with his deputy.

Earlier Palestinian Labor Minister Muhammad Barghouti was arrested north of Ramallah; according to reports, army jeeps pulled over Barghouti’s car, ordered him to step out and detained him. IDF forces also arrested Waal el-Husseini, a Hamas Legislative Council member from the Jerusalem area.

Hamas officials expressed fears that the detained officials will be used as bargaining chips in a deal involving the release of kidnapped soldier Shalit, who is being held by Hamas.

Palestinian security prisoners in the Ofer Prison near Ramallah told Ynet Thursday that prison authorities transferred no less than 100 prisoners to other facilities prior to the IDF operation, apparently to make room for the detained Hamas officials.

Sources reported of IDF attacks on Hamas infrastructures in Gaza, including a warehouse used for the manufacturing and storage of arms. The army later attacked another such warehouse belonging to Fatah’s military wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

Also on Thursday, Navy vessels opened fire at Qassam rocket launching pads in north Gaza, while Palestinian gunmen responded by firing a rocket toward the western Negev. According to the IDF, the rocket landed near the Gaza security fence; no injuries were reported,

Efrat Weiss contributed to the report

Murdered settler teen mourned

From Ynet News, 29/6/06, by Efrat Weiss ...



Eliyahu Asheri



The Israeli community owes him. We all owe him. He was one of society’s best,’ Rabbi Nissim mourns untimely death of Eliyahu Asheri, 18, whose body was found shot to death in Ramallah Thursday

Speaking Thursday morning after the discovery of the murder of Eliyahu Asheri, 18 from Itamar, his teacher Rabbi Yitzhak Nissim said, “We lost one of the best boys. The contrast between his goodness and radiant smile and the evil and cruelty of the other side is so extreme.” Rabbi Nissim heads the pre-military Tzufit preparatory academy, where Eliyahu was a student.






Popular Resistance Committees spokesman presents Asheri’s identification card


Thursday morning, Eliyahu’s parents, Yitro and Miriam, and his four siblings, were given the bitter news of his death.

Rabbi Nissim arrived at the National Institute of Forensic Medicine in Abu Kabir Thursday to identify the boy’s body. He told Ynet, “Early this morning, Itamar Rabbi Avi Ronsky contacted me, after receiving news of Eliyahu’s death. We decided that he would go to the family’s home and I went to the Forensic Medicine Institute.”

He recalled Eliyahu as a smiley, optimistic and quiet youth. “The Israeli community owes him. We all owe him. He was one of society’s best,” Rabbi Nissim said. “He loved to help people; he was a person of faith and roots regarding the state and land of Israel. Eliyah came to preparatory program to build himself up before his military service. He had one more year left.”

Israeli tanks shell northern Gaza Strip after dropping leaflets warning Palestinians to leave Beit Hanoun ahead of next stage of IDF ground offensive

From Debkafile June 28, 2006, 10:10 PM (GMT+02:00) ...

Helicopters hovered overhead. Beit Hanoun is a main center of Qassam missile launchings against Israel. Leaflets dropped by the Israeli air force warned occupants to leave for their own safety ahead of “surgical attacks from ground and air.”

Wednesday, the Israeli government approved the next stage of Operation Summer Rain in Gaza.

Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades warned that if Palestinians are killed in Israel’s Operation Summer Raid launched Tuesday night, its bombers will hit an already marked Israeli embassy overseas.

Prime minister Ehud Olmert said: “We must go on.” He rejected negotiations with any terrorist organization for the release of the abducted Israeli soldier. If he is not returned, “we will not shrink from extreme action,” said Olmert.

Tuesday night, an armored column rolling into the southern Gaza Strip for the declared goal of rescuing Israeli hostage Corp. Gilead Shalit, whom Hamas kidnapped Sunday, June 25, when it led an attack on an Israeli army post outside the Gaza Strip, killing two soldiers and injuring six. The troops seized the disused Dahaniya airport outside Rafah as its command post and recaptured the Philadelphi Gazan-Egyptian border strip. First a transformer station and two bridges linking Gaza City to the south were knocked out.

These actions aimed at disrupting the movements of the Israeli corporal’s captors with their hostage within the Gaza Strip and out through its southern exits. Artillery fire persisted during Wednesday and a Hamas training facility near Rafah was bombed from the air.

The Israeli force avoided the town of Rafah and its refugee camps, operating on their outskirts.
The Israeli incursion followed the collapse of diplomatic efforts to negotiate the Israeli corporal’s release after the kidnappers’ representatives broke off contact.

Israel airforce flight over Assad's palace

From Ynet News, by Hanan Greenberg 28/6/06 ...

...Message to Assad: While ground forces launched an operation in Gaza early Wednesday, four Israel Air Force F-16 aircrafts carried out an aerial flight over Syrian President Bashar Assad's palace, near the city of Latakia....Israel views the Syrian leadership as the main sponsor of terror groups headed by Hamas.

Following the kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit on Sunday, Israel pointed a finger at Hamas leaders in Damascus, who are being sponsored by Syria under Assad's regime. Israeli officials raised the name of Hamas' politburo chief Khaled Mashaal as the person who ordered the Kerem Shalom attack.

Air Force planes flew around the palace while Assad was in it. The IDF took a similar step in the past, about three years ago, after a terror attack in a Haifa restaurant. This is considered a symbolic but significant move, mainly in light of recent declarations voiced by senior Israeli officials on Khaled Mashaal's link to what is taking place in Israel.

Simultaneously, the IDF raised its alert level on the northern border, mainly for fear that Hizbullah or other groups will attempt to take advantage of the situation and cause an escalation.

.....Moussa Abu Marzouk, the deputy of Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal .... said Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose country hosts him and Mashaal, is not involved in the prisoner issue. But in the Palestinian territories, an aide to President Mahmoud Abbas said both Abbas and Egyptian officials had called Assad to ask him to persuade Mashaal to free the soldier.

Abu Marzouk said he knew nothing of reports that a Hamas delegation, possibly led by Mashaal, would be going to Cairo soon.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Massed Tanks Seek to Repair Israel’s Tattered Deterrence

From a DEBKAfile Special Military Analysis, June 27, 2006, 4:28 PM (GMT+02:00) ...

Steely lines of hundreds of tanks, thousands of armored infantry and commandos menaced the Gaza Strip as of Monday night, June 26, from three jumping-off points: the Nahal Oz base opposite Gaza City, Kissufim opposite Deir al Balah and Khan Younes in the south and Sufa opposite Rafah. Made up of the Golani and Givaty armored brigades and special operations units including the elite Sayeret Matkal, they presented a picture of armored might not seen for many years on the world’s television screens, even in US military sieges of Karbala and Falujja, in Iraq.

Prime minister Ehud Olmert ordered this display the day after a Hamas-led terrorist force tunneled its way from Gaza and came up behind an Israeli army post and tank, killing the tank commander and a soldier, injuring six and taking a hostage.

Olmert had a number of objectives in mind:
1. The most urgent: to rebuild the Israel armed forces’ faded deterrent strength in the eyes of the Palestinians and the Israeli public. It has been gravely eroded by years of Israeli “self-restraint” in the face of Palestinian terrorist actions and a succession of Israeli missteps:
--- The pullback from Gaza belatedly admitted as reckless by most military experts;
--- The concomitant metamorphosis of the Philadelphi border zone dividing Gaza from Egyptian Sinai from an enclave controlled by Israeli forces to the main highway for replenishing Palestinian terrorist groups with weapons and fighters;
--- The rise of Hamas as head of Palestinian government;
--- Al Qaeda’s incursion of the Gaza Strip;
--- The ill effects of Israeli dithering over measures to stamp out the Palestinian Qassam blitz on Israeli civilians living within range of Gaza launch pads;
--- The need to eclipse the impact of the successful combined Palestinian operation against the IDF’s Telem post inside Israel and their capture of an Israeli hostage;
--- The hope of scaring the Palestinian terrorists into appreciating the weight of the iron colossus about to hear down on them if they refuse to give up the Israeli corporal and instead insist on haggling.

....The spokesman of the Palestinian terrorist umbrella, the Popular Resistance Committees, Abdullah al-Al, stepped up the war of nerves Tuesday by claiming that Gilead Shalit had been moved to a spot “where the Zionists would never reach him.” The PRC was hitting back at a statement by the deputy chief of staff Moshe Kaplinsky that an IDF action was underway to prevent the hostage’s transfer from the Rafah area to outside the Gaza Strip.

In a further sign of tension, Egypt deployed 2,500 police and security officers on its Sinai border with Gaza to keep out the flow of Palestinian refugees that might be triggered by an Israeli military operation.

The Palestinian terror groups are worried by a possible IDF invasion of the Gaza Strip. They would prefer to prevent it, but have on the other hand reconciled themselves to the inevitable.
All parts of the Palestinian ruling establishment – whether Fatah or Hamas – have foregone the control of events, letting it pass into the hands of the heads of the terrorist groups and, to a limited extent, Khaled Meshaal, the extremist supreme Hamas leader based in Damascus, who is himself manipulated from Tehran and Damascus.

Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly asked Hamas and his own security force to find the missing Israeli soldier and hand him over to avert an Israeli raid of Gaza – but has been consistently ignored. Israeli intelligence officials report that he has not been trying too hard to solve the crisis. The real live wires are the Egyptians, headed by General Omar Suleiman.
Israel therefore finds itself looking at an emergent Iraq-type reality. As in Baghdad, the powers-that-be in Ramallah and Gaza have little control over events on the ground, which are largely dominated by groups dedicated to terror and violence.

Fixed in the Palestinian national consciousness is the conviction that the Hamas-led combined attack on the Israeli Telem army post was their greatest victory in six years of fighting Israel. They are therefore determined to make it a historic turning-point that will wipe out all their reverses – even at the price of provoking the IDF’s return to the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians are not deterred by the land and sea blockade Israel has thrown up to seal the Gaza Strip off from the outside world.

Public pressure on the government and military in Israel is no less insistent and complicated. All three national policy-makers are new to the job and must struggle with the abrupt collapse of the military-security concepts bequeathed them by Ariel Sharon. ....

As plotted by DEBKAfile’s military analysts, Israel’s Gaza campaign may be split into five operations:
One: The armored force standing by at Nahal Oz will head west, skirt Gaza City from the south and head for the former Netzarim settlement on the Mediterranean coast. This move will sever Gaza City and the north from the rest of the territory.
Two: The armored force waiting at Kisufim will push west up to the former Katif and Kfar Darom junctions to cut Gaza City off from Rafah. These two moves will partition the Strip into three sections and isolate the Palestinian refugee camps of Nuseirat, Al Bureij and Al Muazi, which are hotbeds of terrorism.
Three: The combined armored-special operations units would strike out from Sufa towards the former Morag and Morag junction and reach the seashore at the point that used to be Peat Hasadeh. This force would then turn south up to the former Rafah Yam location at the tip of the Philadelphi enclave on the Israel-Egyptian border; and so isolate Rafah and its outlying refugee camps. This is where Israel intelligence estimates Gideon Shalit is being held.
Four Israeli special operations forces accompanying the armored column, joined by commandos landed by air and sea, will occupy Rafah and the camps and conduct a house to house search, leaving no stone unturned, for the missing soldier.
Five: Heavy air raids will be staged on terrorist strongholds, including targeted strikes against their leaders, although most will have already gone to ground.

DEBKAfile’s military experts do not expect the Palestinians to show massive resistance in the first stage of this operation, except for directing scattered Qassam, mortar and rocket fire against f the invading Israeli force. The real crunch will begin when Israeli troops strike into populated districts. But that will only happen if they fail to find the missing soldier in Rafah.

IDF tanks roll into southern Gaza

From Ynet News, 27/6/06 (also See Gaza kidnapping - Special coverage)...

Israeli forces enter Strip after mediators say hope of recovering kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit through diplomatic means running out; earlier Air Force planes fire missiles at two bridges in central Gaza Strip

Operation "Summer Rains" begins: At around 2:30 a.m. Israeli tanks and troops rolled into the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday, the army said, after mediators said hope of recovering kidnapped soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit through talks was running out.

The incursion came shortly after Palestinian security forces deployed near the Gazan border town of Rafah said they were ordered out by the Israeli military.

Israeli Air Force planes targeted missiles at two bridges in the central Gaza Strip shortly before midnight Tuesday. After completing the deployment of forces to the area, the army entered “battle regulations” – or the state of preparation to launch an offensive.

At around 1:30 a.m. five missiles were fired at an electricity plant in south Gaza; blackouts were reported in some Gaza areas.

Pursuant to a situational analysis among senior members of the defense establishment with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert this evening, it was concluded that time is running out and it is necessary to act forcefully to achieve the release of Shalit. Defense Minister Amir Peretz said, during a speech in Latrun, "The clock is ticking regarding the soldier's return. The IDF is prepared and willing to act."

According to the IDF, the aim of blowing up the bridges was to minimize the chances that Shalit, whom the expected incursion aims to rescue, would be moved from place to place by his abductors. The bridges lie on one of the main roads linking the north and south of the Gaza Strip.

Peretz emphasized that Israel will exhaust all options in order to rescue Shalit. In a ceremony honoring the fifty-year anniversary of the Sinai Campaign, he added that "the current situation cannot continue. The Palestinian leadership is responsible for the life of the kidnapped soldier and we are willing to exact the price from anyone who is holding him captive......

Reuters, Ronny Sofer, Hanan Greenberg, Ali Waked and Aviram Zino contributed to the report.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

MDA inclusion to International Red Cross

From JPost, Jun. 26, 2006 18:4, by GAL BECKERMAN, NEW YORK ...

At a celebratory, early morning breakfast yesterday on Manhattan's Upper East Side, American supporters of Magen David Adom, including New York Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton, celebrated the organization's inclusion into the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Clinton ... emphasized that Magen David Adom's inclusion was a "great day for all of us who choose life over death."

Local politicians and leaders from the Jewish organizational world expressed relief that Magen David Adom had finally been voted into the international organization. They pointed out that even at the last minute, during two tumultuous days of negotiation at the Red Cross's 29th international conference in Geneva, Arab groups resisted the move and nearly prevented the vote from taking place. But on June 22nd, both Magen David Adom and the Palestinian Red Crescent were admitted as full voting members, now eligible for funds from the international body.....

Prisoner release out of the question

From Ynet News, 27/6/06, by Aviram Zino ...

(Go to Gaza kidnapping - special coverage for a special news series on this incident)

Prime minister categorically rejects Palestinian offer ...[to release information on] abducted soldier Gilad Shalit in return for freeing all female security prisoners. Israel will not show restraint much longer - Gaza operation imminent, Olmert says. Egypt, France join negotiations for soldier’s release

The issue of releasing Palestinian security prisoners in return for abducted soldier Gilad Shalit's freedom is not on Israel's agenda, and time is running out. These were the two central messages Prime Minister Ehud Olmert conveyed during a speech addressing the Jewish Agency conference in Jerusalem Monday evening.

Olmert said, "We see the Palestinian Authority headed by (Palestinian President) Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian government as responsible for the terror attack yesterday, for the Israeli soldier's abduction and for his safe and sound return to Israel."

"It is not a matter up for negotiation, development or arrangement. It is a matter of basic obligation to conform to the elementary rules of decency of the international community, and those who want to be part of it," Olmert said.

Olmert warned the Palestinians, “The violence and difficult antagonism which took place yesterday morning obligates us to respond. I am saying now that we will retaliate, and we will respond to every terrorist, to every terror organization, in every location. They know we can reach them even when they think they are protected.”

“We are operating under pressure, and therefore we weighed our next moves carefully. But very soon we will launch an inclusive, severe and difficult operation. We won’t wait forever, we won’t turn ourselves into an object of extortion for the Hamas. We will act with all the forces available to us to stop terrorism, and to return the kidnapped soldier home to his family.”

According to Olmert, Israel has already taken initial military steps. “The Gaza Strip is completely closed off, on land and sea, and no one can enter or exit. This is the first in a series of steps, which we will consider patiently, so that it is clear to you that terrorism has to stop. The State of Israel will defend itself and its citizens in every way to stop this blood-thirsty extremism,” the prime minister said.

Hamas: Release female prisoners
Palestinian armed groups on Monday offered to release information on kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit if the Jewish State releases all female and minor Palestinians imprisoned in Israel. Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees and the Army of Islam, the three groups who claimed responsibility for Sunday's attack in Kerem Shalom, made the offer in a joint statement.

"The Israeli occupation will receive no information about the soldier unless it promises to immediately release all female prisoners," the statement read....

Hagai Einav contributed to the report.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Israel holds off ...

From Debkafile, June 25, 2006, 11:15 PM (GMT+02:00) ....

Israel holds off immediate military action in Gaza for fear of harm to kidnapped Israeli soldier Corp. Gideon Shalit, 19, from Mitzpe Hilo ...

This was decided by a special security cabinet consultation called by prime minister Ehud Olmert Sunday evening, June 25. The session dealt with the IDF response to the Hamas-led pre-dawn raid from Gaza inside Israel, in which two Israeli soldiers were killed, a third was kidnapped and 6 were injured.

DEBKAfile’s military sources say the cabinet’s options were narrowed by the slow reactions of the generals on the spot – Maj.-Gen Yoav Galant (Ariel Sharon’s former military secretary) and Brig. Aviv Cochavi - plus the chief of staff’s reluctance to act independently without deferring to his political masters. Had the IDF gone roaring after the terrorists and kidnappers - or even launched a blind pursuit without waiting for a decision from the policy-makers - Israel might have gained the initiative and been in a position to force the kidnapped soldier’s release by pinning the Palestinian terrorists to the wall.

Instead, an Israeli helicopter was lofted to shoot at empty ground and the defense minister Amir Peretz, upon learning that an Israeli naval Dabur missile-ship had opened fire, ordered the vessel to stand down in case of repercussions to the abducted soldier.

These responses were seen by the Palestinian terrorist groups which carried out the concerted attack early Sunday as a sign of weakness and lack of resolve.

Israel has left itself with two chancy options - an unpredictable bargaining process and hope that the missing soldier can be first located through its intelligence and electronic surveillance branches.

Israel’s military tardiness reduced the deterrent effect of the threat defense minister Amir Peretz issued earlier to Palestinian terrorists that they and their leaders would pay a painful price if harm came to Corp. Shalit.

This affair recalls the October 2000 kidnap by Hizballah of three Israeli soldiers, Adi Avitan, Benny Avraham and Omar Sawad, on Israel’s northern border. Then, too, prime minister Ehud Barak held back from expeditious action. Four years later, in the absence of any sign of life from the captured men, Israel was forced to pay dearly for their remains. Both Israeli premiers were loath to send troops back into evacuated territory – South Lebanon then, the Gaza Strip now.

IDF to prepare for extensive operation

From Ynet News 26/6/06, by Ronny Sofer .....

Prime minister convenes security cabinet to discuss Israel’s next steps in response to Kerem Shalom attack, in which Palestinian attackers killed two soldiers, kidnapped third. Army instructs to focus on gaining release of hostage, prepare for wide-ranging incursion to be implemented at later date

During a security cabinet meeting convened by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Sunday it was decided not to deal an immediate military response in Gaza following the attack on Kerem Shalom, but to first focus on the safe return of the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

Kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit Photo: Reproduction: Hagai Aharon

The cabinet discussed potential responses to the attack, in which two IDF soldiers were killed and Shalit was kidnapped. After examining numerous possible courses of action, the cabinet was decided the IDF would prepare for a wide-ranging military operation in Gaza, to be implemented at a later stage.

"We will respond, and the response will be mighty. It won't be an operation of one or two days. A border has been crossed," Olmert said during the meeting.

The prime minister asked minister and security staff to first enable the first step of returning the kidnapped soldier home safely.

The cabinet issued a message following the meeting saying, “Israel sees in the event Sunday morning at Kerem Shalom a most severe incident. The responsibility is on the Palestinians, on Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, the government and the PA. Israel will take all the necessary steps to return the captured soldier Corporal Gilad Shalit to his home. The cabinet approved the military ranks to carry out the necessary preparations to accomplish this mission.”

Further, the cabinet noted: “Not a single person involved in the incident will be immune. The cabinet gave the army the go-ahead to prepare forces for an urgent military operation. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz will approve the operations as things develop.”

Simultaneously, Israel will conduct diplomatic contacts with the international community to represent its stance. Asaf Shariv, Olmert’s media advisor, will focus efforts on a public relations (hasbara) campaign geared towards Israeli and international media to accomplish this aim.

'We are activating all the tools available to us'

Ahead of the cabinet meeting, Peretz communicated a message to Shalit’s kidnappers: “I want to inform all who are involved, anyone who has hand or foot in the soldier’s welfare, in our view, anyone that brings harm to the soldier, should know that his blood is on his own head and on the heads of his leaders.”

“We intend to respond to this morning’s incident in a way that all those involved, who made a pact in this attack against the State of Israel, will understand that the price from such acts will be painful. If things don’t change, it could be painful sevenfold.”

The defense minister, in making his statements, appeared weary. He spoke quietly, but his threats were firm. “We are activating all the tools available to us. There will be additional, supportive activities, to the military action, and I hope that after the cabinet meeting we will be able to announce our plans,” he said.

Avi Cohen contributed to the report