Saturday, December 31, 2005

Armed Arabs Storm Rafiah Border, EU Observers Flee in Panic

From Arutz Sheva, 14:28 Dec 30, '05 / 29 Kislev 5766 By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu ...

Anarchy in the Palestinian Authority (PA) spread to the Rafiah border crossing, which was closed Friday morning after European Union (EU) observers fled 100 armed PA policemen who formed a blockade.

The gunmen who stormed the compound belong to the unstable ruling Fatah party of PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas. One of their members was killed in a clash Thursday between terrorists. After the compound was stormed, the EU's observers stationed at the crossing quickly fled the scene in panic while the gunmen prevented vehicles from reaching the crossing.

The observers are responsible for monitoring the crossing and enforcing the agreement between Israel and the PA on live camera transmissions of border activity. The armed men refused to heed demands by PA officials to leave the compound, and the EU workers left out of fear for their lives. "....

...The incident was one of several on Thursday which pointed to widespread anarchy.

PA police still are looking for a British human rights activist and her parents who were kidnapped by terrorists in Gaza. Kate Burton, 25, was showing per parents around Rafiah when they were taken hostage by a gang armed with automatic rifles. She has been working as a volunteer for the past year, according to relatives.

Arab human rights groups demanded that the PA stop the kidnappings, which have become rampant. Two teachers were abducted last week by the terrorist group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine but were released several hours later.

"The lack of action by the Authority against those who stood behind previous kidnappings encouraged others to carry out crimes of that kind," the (Palestinian) Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights stated.

Officer's action prevented disaster

We all owe a moment's silence and respect for a hero of Israel ....

From JPost, Dec. 30, 2005 10:42 Updated Dec. 30, 2005 16:00 By JPOST.COM STAFF ...

As family and friends mourned the killing of 21-year-old IDF officer Lt. Uri Binamo, politicians and security officials credited the young officer with saving the lives of Israeli civilians by stopping a suicide bomber who reportedly planned to explode at children's Hanuka festivities in Israel.

Binamo, whose funeral began at 11 a.m. in Haifa's military cemetery, was a platoon commander in the Nahshon Battalion. At the funeral, his father read a letter that Uri had written at the age of 14, in which he expressed his hope that all of the people of the world could become friends and live in peace. Comrades spoke of him as the most loved platoon commander in the battalion, who brought a sewing machine to his base in order to repair his soldiers' torn uniforms.

On Thursday, Binamo and his soldiers set up a temporary checkpoint near the settlement of Avnei Hefetz after IDF forces in the area received an intelligence tip that terrorists were planning to cross the Green Line and attack Hanukka festivities.

When his troops stopped a Palestinian taxi at the checkpoint, Lt. Binamo, from the northern town of Nesher, took the lead in approaching the taxi and told the occupants to get out of the vehicle. The three Palestinian men inside complied with the order, but once out of the taxi, one of them lifted his shirt to reveal a 10-kilogram suicide belt. He then detonated the belt, killing himself, the Palestinian taxi driver, a second passenger in the taxi and Binamo.

Three soldiers and seven Palestinians were also wounded in the blast.
Lt. Einat Bing, the slain officer's girlfriend, who was stationed in the area, heard the report of the attack over the field radio. She immediately tried to call Binamo on his mobile phone but could not reach him. "He didn't answer, and I understood [what had happened]," she said.

Binamo will be laid to rest at 11 a.m. Friday at the military cemetery in Haifa.
The three soldiers covering the officer as he made his approach were wounded.
The most seriously injured soldier was taken to Hillel Yaffe Hospital in Hadera, where he underwent vascular surgery. His condition remained serious Friday afternoon, over 24 hours after the attack. The other two soldiers were lightly wounded by shrapnel and transferred to Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba, where one may have to undergo surgery on his hand.

One of the Palestinians killed in the bombing was an innocent bystander. The other was the suicide bomber's guide...

Dr. Hussam al-Taneeb, the director of the Dr. Thabet Thabet Hospital in Tulkarm, said that seven Palestinian civilians, including a four-year-old child, were also wounded.

Security sources told The Jerusalem Post that there have been 50 general terror warnings and more than 10 specific alerts in the past two weeks

Binamo was supposed to have received a promotion in another two months, including an advancement to the position of lieutenant company commander. "This is a terrible loss to the IDF," said Col. Aharon Haliwa, the commander of the Ephraim Brigade, the sector in which the attack took place. "This was an officer who was loved and very professional. He carried out his role, and saved - with his body - the lives of dozens of innocent civilians."

Binamo's family spoke Thursday of a young man who, as a child, loved flowers and hikes around Israel with his family. They said that he enjoyed every minute of his military service. "He knew that the area of Tulkarm was the most dangerous sector, but he was determined to reach a goal," Binamo's father said. "This was a boy who would use his leaves - instead of going home - to travel around the country to his soldiers' houses to check and see that everything was alright. His soldiers simply loved him in a remarkable manner."

"We, as parents, as people to whom the country is often more important to them than their own private house is, understood that this could happen, but we would never have wanted this," said the parents, explaining that in their house, helping the community was a basic value.

Binado was supposed to have been featured on Army Radio Thursday, as part of the annual "Shirutrom" event, raising money for the IDF Soldiers' Welfare Association. Bing, who had been Binado's girlfriend for the past nine years, said that he had called her earlier that morning, telling her to listen to the radio broadcast. "Soon you'll hear me on the radio," he said.
When the recording staff arrived at Binado's base near Tulkarm, the battalion sergeant-major greeted them with tears in his eyes and informed them of the tragedy.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

West Bank suicide bombing

From JPost Dec. 29, 2005 9:56 Updated Dec. 29, 2005 11:32 By ERIK SCHECHTER AND JPOST STAFF ...

An Israeli was killed and around 10 people were wounded in a suicide bombing in the West Bank on Thursday morning.

...The IDF estimated that the bomber intended to blow up within Israeli lines, but was stopped before he could reach his planned destination.... Seven Palestinians, including a child, were reportedly wounded as well. ....

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Fatah unites under Barghouti

From Ynet News, (12.28.05, 14:15) ...

Two ruling-party lists merge ahead of upcoming elections; Gaza chaos continues
Ali Waked

Fatah has officially succeeded in merging its two election lists into a single, unified list, to be headed by Marwan Barghouti, the jailed Tanzim leader.

Younger Fatah members resented the high placement of the older, senior figures in the party list, at their expense.

...Fatah members believed a united list would be presented, but sources in Barghouti's camp said the possibility of two seperate lists should not be ruled out.

...Barghouti himself authorized the merger..."We want a young, fresh list, without any stain of corruption," said a Barghouti source.

The merger took place against a backdrop of violence, as Palestinian police exchanged fire with some 60 gunmen who took over an election office in Gaza City. ...The gunmen, loyal to ...Barghouti, were demanding the elimination of "old guard" candidates .... Gunmen took over four election offices in the Gaza Strip early Wednesday. ...

Hunt for top Nazi

From JPost, Dec. 28, 2005 2:33 Updated Dec. 28, 2005 16:40 By YAAKOV KATZ

An international manhunt is underway for the most wanted Nazi war criminal, Alois Brunner, Adolf Eichmann's top aide ...(in) Brazil, where authorities believed Brunner might have recently entered to hide.

...Israel Police sources confirmed to the Post that police in Brazil and other South American countries were in the midst of a concentrated investigation after receiving intelligence information that Brunner may be hiding in Brazil. The officers said there was a "good chance" the Austrian-born Brunner was alive and in South America.

...A deputy to Eichmann, Brunner assisted in implementing the Final Solution and is held directly responsible for the deaths of at least 130,000 Jews. He is believed to have spent the last 40 years hiding in Syria under the assumed name of Dr. Georg Fischer.

... Israel's police representative in South America was in constant touch with Brazilian police and was keeping tabs on the investigation, which he said was of extreme interest to Israel. ...If caught, Brunner would be extradited to France where he was sentenced in absentia in 2001 to life in prison on charges of crimes against humanity in a trial that reportedly lasted only several hours.

Brazil contacted Interpol in May and asked member countries, particularly Israel, for assistance in identifying a man they suspected was Brunner. ...Brazilian authorities believed Brunner might still be hiding in their country and were searching for him. "We told them that they don't need fingerprints and that it is enough to look at his hand and see that he is missing several fingers," he said. Brunner was wounded twice by letter bombs sent to him - reportedly by the Mossad - during the 40 years he spent in Syria. In 1961 he reportedly lost his left eye in an explosion and in 1980 he lost three fingers in a similar blast. ...

Holding the regimes responsible

This extract from the Jerusalem Post Editorial, Nov. 22, 2005 is just as relevant today in light of the escalating violence from both Gaza and Lebanon...

On the same day that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon delivered a political bombshell by resigning from the Likud, real bombshells fell on the northern town of Metulla, for the first time since Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon five years ago. ...

...Israel responded with bombardments against Hizbullah's bases, but has not directly attacked the interests of the capitals it has held responsible - namely, Beirut, Damascus, and Teheran.
The question is whether such restraint on Israel's part, in the face of what the United States has rightly condemned as an "unprovoked attack," is wise. Once again, Israel seems to be acting by the old "rules" that were supposed to have been changed by the withdrawal from southern Lebanon behind a UN-recognized border.

According to the new rules, Israel would not retaliate tit-for-tat in the case of Hizbullah attacks, but would act directly against the interests of responsible governments in Lebanon, Syria or Iran. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz hinted as much when he stated that "Syrian and Iranian interests are behind this event....."

... Israel should be making clear to the US, France and the UN that, if Lebanon is not forced to disarm Hizbullah or move it away from our border, and if Syria is not forced to abandon its support for terrorism, Israel will be forced to act directly against the national interests of these regimes. Our message, in short, should be, either you act or we will. This, not coincidentally, should also be our new message with respect to the impotence of the Palestinian Authority. Israel cannot continue to be in a position of tit-for-tat retaliation against the terrorists themselves, while the regimes behind the terrorists escape scot-free.

Restraint for its own sake, as we should have learned by now, is worse than useless: It simply invites further and perhaps more deadly attacks. Restraint only makes sense if Israel is "paid" for it in the form of concrete actions that more effectively safeguard our security.

Hizbullah has thousands of missiles pointed at our northern residents. Though we have become used to the fact that, by and large, these missiles have not been fired since Israel's withdrawal, it is a mistake to pretend that holding large parts of the population hostage to the whims of a terrorist organization is acceptable.

When Israel withdrew from Lebanon, our leaders, and even the international community acted as if the Lebanese army's restoration of sovereignty to the south was a matter of days or weeks. Five years later, it has not happened.

The international pressure that has been building on Syria should only increase in response to that regime's resort, once again, to proxy aggression against Israel. Syria must learn that its only way out is to abandon the path of aggression and terror, rather than returning to its old-style intimidation tactics.

It is appropriate that Israel act in-sync with the international community in increasing this pressure now that, finally, our concerns have become more widely shared. But such cooperation must be a results-oriented, two-way street.

Iran 3-6 months from a nuclear bomb

From Debkafile, December 27, 2005, 8:54 PM (GMT+02:00) ...

Mossad chief: Failing urgent outside intervention, Iran will in 3-6 months have all it needs to make a nuclear bomb

Tuesday, Dec. 27, Mossad director Meir Dagan joined the list of Israeli officials sounding the alarm on the imminence of Iran’s nuclear threat.

In his briefing to the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee, Dagan stressed Tehran will not be satisfied with a single nuclear weapon but plans a stockpile. This is Israel’s working assumption.

Steinitz: Egypt is Preparing for War with Israel

From Arutz Sheva, 16:40 Dec 27, '05 / 26 Kislev 5766, By Scott Shiloh ...

Member of the Knesset, Yuval Steinitz (Likud) says that Egypt’s arms build up over the past few years has focused on the possibility of future war with Israel.

In a radio interview to be broadcast on Arutz 7’s Hebrew internet site at 10:00 P.M. tonight, Steinitz, a former professor of political science at Haifa University who chairs the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, says that Egypt has already become a major supporter of terrorism against Israel. Steinitz said that Egypt has been allowing terrorist groups operating out of the Gaza district to smuggle missiles into Gaza. Those groups intend to use the missiles against Israeli targets. In his estimation, 90% of the explosives used by the terrorist groups are brought in from Egypt.

Steinitz explains that it is a mistake for Israel to view Syria as its principle enemy, while neglecting the Egyptian threat, primarily because Israel maintains diplomatic relations with Egypt. Steinitz said that weapons smuggled from Egypt has become so important to the Hamas, “if you would ask them what they would be willing to give up, assistance from Egypt or Syria, they would prefer to give up Syrian, but not Egyptian aid.

”The Egyptians, Steinitz asserts, have kept to the peace agreements signed in 1978 as far as not engaging Israel in outright conflict. But on other levels, such as economic relations or stopping anti-Israel incitement, Egyptian compliance has been lacking.

Terrorists in Lebanon Bombard Israel´s Northern Towns

From Arutz Sheva, 01:47 Dec 28, '05 / 27 Kislev 5766, By Baruch Gordon ...

Arab terrorists in Lebanon fired katyusha rockets into Kiryat Shemonah, the largest Israeli town on the border with Lebanon. The shells scored direct hits on two civilian homes. No one was injured directly from the explosions, but civilians were taken to the hospital for treatment of shock.

The shelling began just after 11pm, Tuesday night. One rocket landed in the stairwell of a 3-story building in Kiryat Shemonah causing heavy damages to the homes.

A second Katyusha landed in the den of a civilian home completely destroying the room; the parents were in the bedroom and went into shock. Their child was unharmed.

Electricty in the region was knocked out as a result of the shelling. Other rockets landed in Shlomi and the western Galilee area. A total of at least 6 shells landed in Israel. An emergency situation of preparedness was declared in northern Israel, and the IDF instructed area residents to descend to bombshelters for. Later the residents were allowed to move to safety rooms for the duration of the night.

Arabs can't reproduce successes in Gaza greenhouses

From World Net Daily, Posted: December 22, 20051:00 a.m. Eastern (USA) Time, By Aaron Klein© 2005 ...

The Palestinians who took over the Jewish greenhouses in the Gaza Strip when Israel withdrew its communities from the area now are asking expelled farmers for advice after reportedly failing to reproduce the region's famous insect-free vegetables, WND has learned.

Prior to Israel's August withdrawal, the residents of Gaza's Gush Katif slate of Jewish communities ran greenhouses known for producing high-quality insect-free vegetables. The Gush Katif gardens featured some of the most technologically advanced agricultural equipment and accounted for more than $100 million per year in exports to Europe. The greenhouses also supplied Israel with 75 percent of its own produce.

The hothouses were passed to the Palestinians in September in a $14 million deal brokered by former World Bank President James Wolfenson and several wealthy Jewish Americans.
Earlier this month, the Palestinians now running the greenhouses reportedly told the Israeli-Palestinian Economic Cooperation Fund they failed in their efforts to grow bug-free produce.
Now the Palestinian owners have asked the United States Agency for International Development, which has been involved in reconstruction efforts in Gaza, to hire former Jewish Gaza greenhouse owners as consultants for their declining vegetable businesses.

...Anita Tucker, an expelled Gaza resident and one of the pioneer farmers of Gush Katif, told WND, "I am not at all surprised the Palestinians are failing. ...Tucker explained she and other Katif farmers engineered agricultural technology specific to the dry, sandy Gaza conditions.

"We used different kinds of netting... colors because we knew certain kinds of bugs were attracted to or kept away from different colors...certain organic insecticides ...and were very strict about which chemicals we used. We kept our greenhouses as clean as possible. And we also had our own proprietary inventions and technology."

Asked if she would serve as a consultant for the new Palestinian owners of her former greenhouses, Tucker said, "Probably not. We see the terror coming out of Gaza, coming out of the neighborhood I used to live in, and it's just horrible. Hamas has taken over different parts of Gush Katif and are firing rockets into Israel. I am not saying the Palestinian farmers are involved, but it seems they are not doing enough to stop the terror." ...

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Zarqawi and Israel: Is There a New Jihadi Threat Destabilizing the Eastern Front?

The following is the summary of an in-depth analysis by Dore Gold and Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan D. Halevi, from The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Vol. 5, No. 12, 15 December 2005. Follow the link to the full article ...

For the first time, Israeli defense experts are noting that groups identifying with al-Qaeda - or the global jihad - are determined to acquire operational footholds close to Israel's borders. The most dramatic sign was the November 9, 2005, suicide bombing of three Jordanian hotels in Amman by "al-Qaeda Mesopotamia" - the organization led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Militant Islamic websites immediately announced: "After the attack in the heart of Jordan, it will soon be possible to reach Jewish targets in Israel."

Al-Qaeda operations around Israel are becoming more prominent. In August 2005, an al-Qaeda rocket strike at the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba also reached the Israeli resort town of Eilat. To Israel's south, a growing al-Qaeda presence in Sinai led to attacks on Israeli tourists in Taba and other coastal resorts in October 2004, followed by a major bombing at a hotel in Sharm al-Sheikh in July 2005. Sinai has also served as a rear base for the beginning of an al-Qaeda presence in the Gaza Strip. Zarqawi's terrorist network formally joined al-Qaeda in October 2004.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, the deputy head of al-Qaeda, has encouraged Zarqawi to extend his jihad in Iraq to neighboring states (i.e., Jordan and Syria), where there are already increasing signs of jihadi activity. In the next stage, Zawahiri envisions "the clash with Israel." The head of Israeli military intelligence, Maj.-Gen. Aharon Zeevi (Farkash), concluded recently: "We are not a high priority [for al-Qaeda], but our prioritization for them is increasing."

Many Western sources are convinced that Zarqawi was training his recruits in the use of toxins, including poisons and chemical weapons, at the Herat training camp in Afghanistan. In 2004, a Zarqawi associate named Azmi al-Jailusi confessed to trying to set off a chemical explosion in central Amman, near the headquarters of Jordanian intelligence, which had the potential to kill 80,000 people. In April 2005, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned that recurrent U.S. intelligence reports indicated that Zarqawi was seeking to obtain a "radiological explosive."

It would be a cardinal error for Israel to conclude that after the U.S. war in Iraq, the region to Israel's east is moving in the direction of greater stability and, therefore, Israel can take the risk of conceding its strategic assets in the West Bank. Zarqawi now wants to destabilize Jordan, but clearly seeks to target Israel as well. Dismissing the value of Israel's security fence, Zarqawi's organization has declared: "the separation wall...will feel the might of the mujahidin," hinting that Israel could face the same waves of insurgent volunteers that have entered Iraq. Were Israel to withdraw from the strategic barrier it controls in the Jordan Valley, then Israeli vulnerability could very well attract more global jihadi elements to Jordan, who would seek to use the kingdom as a platform to reach the West Bank and then Israel.


More holiday reading by Iranian author Amir Taheri, a member of Benador Associates, from New York Post December 26, 2005 (free membership required) or see the full article on Eleana Benador's Web site...

IF the polls are any indication, President Bush's recent rhetorical offensive managed to stem the tide of opposition against his Iraq policy. But the debate on the future course of U.S. foreign policy is likely to intensify until November's midterm elections.

This debate is focused on a few key questions: Is the Bush Doctrine dead? Has the United States, chastised in Afghanistan and Iraq, decided to move beyond "neoconservatism"? If so, what new doctrine should guide U.S. foreign policy?

... much of this debate revolves around two assumptions rarely tested against reality: first, that America has failed in Afghanistan and Iraq; second, that America can change foreign policy as we lesser mortals change our shirts.

Both assumptions are false.

To show that America has failed in Afghanistan and Iraq, one needs a yardstick against which success or failure is measured: ...America intervened in both Afghanistan and Iraq with the aim of changing the regimes in Kabul and Baghdad, a goal it achieved with remarkable speed. The machinery of terror and war built and maintained by the Taliban and the Ba'ath has been shattered. And whatever happens in Afghanistan and Iraq, one thing is certain: Mullah Muhammad Omar and Saddam Hussein won't return to power.

... Critics might say that the aim of the intervention was to transform Afghanistan and Iraq into modern democracies. True — yet any judgment on the success of such projects must take into account the element of time....Both may suffer years, if not decades, of violence and terror.
The real question is whether Afghanistan and Iraq would have had any chance of even a democratic dream under Mullah Omar and Saddam.

... but one thing is certain: The region's democratic forces now have their first opportunity in generations to make a real impact. Their last chance to set the agenda was early last century, when constitutional movements triumphed in Iran and the Ottoman Empire. Today, these democratic forces may fail because of their mistakes, or be defeated by Islamist and secular despotic opponents. But they also have a chance to win. And that — as seen from the United States, which should be supportive of democratic forces everywhere — is certainly a success.

On to the second assumption — that America can change its foreign policy at will and instantly.
There are those who preach a return to the bankrupt hodgepodge that Henry Kissinger sold to the Americans under the label of realpolitik for almost a decade. ....By both choice and necessity, the United States during the Cold War on occasion acted against character by supporting despots. But the context then was a global power struggle against the Soviet bloc; that justification is no more. Bush seems to have understood this. And that... is the most realistic matrix for American foreign policy in the 21st century.

Netanyahu outlines platform

From Jerusalem Posat Dec. 26, 2005 19:14 Updated Dec. 27, 2005 0:28 By GIL HOFFMAN

Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu started off his party's campaign on Monday ...(he) outlined his positions on diplomatic and socioeconomic issues ...

"The time has come for a party to say what Israel will keep and not what we should give away," Netanyahu said. "There are three different approaches: Keeping all the land, which I think would be a mistake; withdrawing from nearly all the land, which Ehud Barak, Sharon and Amir Peretz support and I think is dangerous; and our policy, which is defensible borders for Israel."

...Netanyahu said his "defensible borders" would include the Jordan Valley, the Golan Heights, an undivided Jerusalem, settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria and the hilltops overlooking Ben-Gurion Airport, the Gush Dan region and Route 443.

On economic issues, Netanyahu proposed a series of measures to stimulate the economy, including cutting NIS 4 billion from the defense budget, cutting the value added tax (VAT) to 14 percent, extending train lines to the Negev and the Galilee and building homes in the two regions for recently discharged soldiers.

Netanyahu accused Sharon of harming Israel's security by withdrawing from the Gaza Strip....

Terrorists threaten with upgraded missiles

From Jerusalem Post Dec. 26, 2005 17:17 Updated Dec. 27, 2005 0:04 By KHALED ABU TOAMEH ...

Three armed Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip on Monday threatened to continue their attacks on Israel and said they have long-range missiles capable of reaching more Israeli towns and cities.

One of the groups belongs to Fatah... The two others are the Popular Resistance Committees, an alliance of various armed groups, and ...Islamic Jihad.

PA officials in Ramallah expressed deep concern over the threats and said Israel was responsible for the latest cycle of violence...(they) did not rule out the possibility that such weapons had been smuggled from Egypt in recent weeks.

Representatives of the three armed groups appeared at a joint press conference in Gaza City, where they said attacks on Israel would continue following of Israel's decision to establish a security zone in the northern Gaza Strip to stop rocket attacks.

... "Launching rocket attacks is one of the means of resistance and soon there will be surprises," the leaflet warned. Earlier, the armed wing of Fatah, Aksa Martyrs Brigades, claimed that it possessed Grad missiles with a range of 25 kilometers.

...The 122-mm. caliber Grad missile, officially known as BM-21, was first used by the Soviet Red Army in 1963. The first missiles were fired from trucks fitted with launchers capable of firing 40 rockets within six seconds. The Popular Resistance Committees also claimed on Monday that its members managed to develop a homemade rocket with a range of 15 km....

Full-scale terrorist attacks threatened

From DEBKAfile reports: December 26, 2005, 10:32 PM (GMT+02:00) ...

Full-scale terrorist attacks against Israel will resume Jan. 1 unless Abbas surrenders to terms laid down by Jihad Islami, the Popular Resistance Committees and Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has refused to withdraw the 200 Palestinian security personnel posted in the northern Gaza Strip, so frustrating the Sharon government’s no-go tactic in this region and efforts to curb Qassam attacks. This Palestinian force therefore provides the Qassam missile crews with a protective umbrella against Israeli artillery, which is forced to confine its shelling to vacant land.

Taking part in the Qassam offensive now are the Jihad Islami and factions of the Al Aqsa Brigades backed and paid by the Fatah old guard, led by prime minister Ahmed Qureia, which is now at war with Mahmoud Abbas. If Abbas refuses to postpone the January 25 election - in obedience to their diktat - these groups plus the PRC will re-ignite full-scale attacks on Israel. This is designed to prompt large-scale Israeli retaliation and generate a crisis that precludes voting - and so deprive Hamas of its predicted victory. Their deadline for this ultimatum is Jan. 1. Israel has thus become a hostage to the Palestinian factional war.

Earlier Monday, a Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades spokesman revealed the acquisition of new missiles of 25km range, the first able to reach to points north of Ashkelon. He spoke of creating a Palestinian buffer belt on Israeli territory north of the Gaza Strip

Gaza no-go zone

From DEBKAfile, December 25, 2005, 1:49 PM (GMT+02:00) ...

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that carving out a buffer zone in N. Gaza will be a tall order at this late date in view of the Palestinian round-the-clock mortar-RPG firewall.

Mofaz reported to Israeli cabinet Sunday, Dec. 25, on orders given to Israel’s armed forces to intensify aerial and artillery operations for this no-go zone and to step up targeted assassinations. Palestinian areas will stay under closure until end of Hanukah, Jan. 3, he said, in view of terrorist threats to strike inside Israel – especially from the Jihad Islami

DEBKAfile's military sources note that the Palestinian terrorists are rapidly turning the area on the Israeli side of the Gaza border into a no-go zone. The defense minister Shaul Mofaz demanded Sunday, Dec. 25, that the government urgently release INS125m ($50m) to fortify the dozens of small villages and kibbutzim within range of Palestinian missiles and mortar fire. Civilian traffic on the roads in the region has become extremely hazardous. Protective walls are going up in the military base at Zikkim where five Israeli servicemen suffered minor injuries last week from a Qassam hit.

This situation developed following Israel’s pullback from the Gaza Strip since when Palestinian terrorist groups are pressing their advantage. While most Qassam missile barrages are reported, scant information reaches the public on hits in more remote places like Kissufim and Kerem Shalom, or the round-the-clock shelling by 60mm mortars and RPGs that keep IDF patrols and roads outside the border under constant fire. There has also been an increase in bomb traps planted and explosive devices hurled along these patrol routes. One military expert told DEBKA there is no way Israel can forge a buffer zone on the Palestinian side of the northern Gaza Strip border without first eradicating the line of Palestinian fire – otherwise the Palestinians will be left with the war initiative and nothing will be accomplished.

According to DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources, the Palestinian Authority has deployed 200 general security troops at the favorite Palestinian launch-sites in the ruins of Dugit, Nisanit and Eilei Sinai. But they have not been ordered to drive the missile crews away or interfere with their activities. Whenever a Qassam is fired, the entire troop runs for cover before Israeli artillery goes into action.

Even the British government has given up on Abu Mazen’s Palestinian Authority asserting any kind of control in the Gaza Strip. British citizens were warned for the first time ever last week to refrain from entering the Gaza Strip for any purpose whatever because of the threat of abductions and other acts of terror.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Palestinians against Fatah

From Ynet News (12.25.05, 11:09) by Sever Plocker ...

Hamas' strength is particularly glaring against the background of Fatah's failures

The elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council, which was created with the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, have already been pushed off several times, and are currently scheduled for next month. Current polls suggest Hamas will win significant representation – perhaps as much as 40 percent.

This should come as no surprise. The current parliament, as well as the Palestinian government, is ruled by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party. It is hard to imagine an authority that has been more of a failure than this.

Over the past decade, the international community has donated some USD 10 billion to the PA; money that has been used in that time to create an ocean of corruption and inefficiency.

Arafat's legacy
The Fatah government has not advanced the dream of an independent Palestinian state, and has revealed again and again intolerable (and inexplicable) weakness with regard to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The faction was helpless in the face of Yasser Arafat's deceptive ways, and party officials looked away from his excesses until the day he died.

...The Fatah government did nothing to prevent the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada, which was originally billed as a "popular reaction to Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount." But senior officials admitted privately to Israeli and foreign diplomats that the intifada severely damaged Palestinian interests, but refused to employ the legitimate arms of power to stop it.

One could have expected Fatah, a secular party with many senior leaders educated in the gospel of revolutionary communist ideology in the Soviet Union, to stand strongly against radical Islam. But this has not happened. Instead, Fatah has undergone a rapid process of Islamization, and at the height of the intifada gave its blessing to suicide bombings against Israeli civilians.

... Thus, the Fatah government made itself completely impotent with regard to all matters concerning law enforcement or providing the most minimal government services.

Strength against failure
Hamas' strength is particularly glaring against the background of Fatah's failures. This extremist party is considered by the Palestinian street not only as clean and uncorrupt, but also as an address that cares about the ordinary citizen. Palestinians are well aware of Hamas' extremist nature and know the group rejects outright Israel's right to exist.

But many people believe Hamas in government will act entirely different than Hamas in opposition. They are calling a vote for Hamas the "Sharon Precedent": Just like Ariel Sharon, builder of settlements and champion of the Whole Land of Israel, reversed course upon becoming prime minister – so, too (they hope) will Hamas undergo a similar change, once they understand the needs of the Palestinian people from the perspective of a governing party, rather than an illegal terrorist group.

This Palestinian gamble worries us Israelis, but it is understandable. From the average Palestinian's point of view, voting for Hamas is an appropriate reaction to the rotten and failed leadership of Fatah.

Sever Plocker is a columnist for Israel’s leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth

Christians Fleeing Bethlehem

From Arutz Sheva 13:57 Dec 25, '05 / 24 Kislev 5766 By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu ...

Bethlehem's Christian population has declined 10 percent in five years, and Moslems now are the majority in the city where Christians, once a majority, often have been the targets of Moslem riots.

Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas visited Bethlehem Saturday night during midnight mass and used the holidays as a platform to call on the Christian community to denounce the partition barrier which separates Bethlehem from the southern limits of Jerusalem.

Foreign clerics joined Abbas, and the Archbishop of Westminster, England told worshippers that Bethlehem's citizens are "terribly alone" because of the barrier. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor urged Israel "to build bridges and not walls" and blamed Israel for making Christians feeling "compelled to leave the land of their birth for foreign lands, on account of the political situation."

... Christians have been fleeing Bethlehem in droves due to security concerns and the changeover to Arab authority in the town, with 3,000 having fled since the outbreak of the Oslo War in 2000. Ten years ago, PLO chairman Yasser Arafat replaced the Christian-dominated town council with a predominately Moslem council. Christians made up 90 percent of the city before Israel became a state in 1948, but a Moslem influx has turned the Christians into a minority of less than 20 percent.

...The PA officially claims to allow freedom of religion, but Moslem sermons have linked Jews and Christians as enemies. A PA Information Ministry statement states, "The Palestinian people are also governed by [Islamic] Shari'a law..., and any Muslim who [converts] or declares becoming an unbeliever is committing a major sin punishable by capital punishment...."Anti-Christian sentiment also has been evident elsewhere in the PA. Last September, hundreds of armed Moslems terrorized the Christian city of Taibe in Samaria, burning homes and cars, and destroying a sacred Catholic statue. In one riot in 2002, Moslems instigated "a rampage...after torching the Christian properties," according to the Boston Globe.

Terrorists Vow More Attacks

From Arutz Sheva 15:52 Dec 26, '05 / 25 Kislev 5766 By Alex Traiman ...

While the IDF is considering methods for reducing the number of Kassam rockets penetrating into Israel, Arab terror groups are threatening an increase in rocket attacks.

...Prime Minister Ariel Sharon instructed Israeli Defense brass Sunday to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent Kassam rockets from being launched into Israel. Steps may include monitoring Gaza from the air and sea, as well as establishing a 1.5 mile restricted security zone along the northern and eastern Gaza borders.

In response, the Islamic Jihad terror group has threatened to increase the firing of homemade Kassams, should the IDF implement the security procedures. Islamic Jihad spokesperson Khaled Al Batsh said that an imposed security zone gives their group a “closer target to strike,” according to the Arab International Middle East Media Center. ....”If Israel enforces a security strip, Abu Abir says that terror organizations will continue shelling military bases, utilizing techniques employed by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

National Religious Party leader MK Zevulum Orlev visited the IDF's Zikim base near Ashkelon on Sunday. The base was recently the target of a Kassam rocket attack, injuring five soldiers and inflicting panic amongst new recruits housed at the base. Orlev stated during his visit that there is no alternative to a ground offensive into Gaza, and that the IDF must do whatever is necessary to halt rocket attacks into Israel.

Abu Abir claims that if the Israeli army orders an offensive into Gaza, the brigades will retaliate “hard and fast.” ...In a statement released by Islamic Jihad Sunday night, the terror organization asserts that Israel is being pushed into “withdrawal after withdrawal.” ....“Under a barrage of rockets, the explosions and fire of the Mujahideen, they [the Zionists] are now announcing that they are withdrawing from an army base, south of the city of Ashkelon, on lands conquered in ’48,” said the terror group. Islamic Jihad views the issue of defending the IDF base against Kassam rockets as tantamount to another Israeli withdrawal from territory.

In addition, PRC head, Gamal Abu-Samhadna, has threatened to open up his own border crossing between the Gaza district and Egypt. His threats come as Israel and Europe oppose allowing Abu-Samhadna to visit Mecca during an upcoming Moslem holiday.Abu-Samahada said his crossing would permit wanted terrorists to enter and exit the Gaza district unhindered by what he defined as “the occupation.” Under an agreement brokered by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Rafiah crossing between Gaza and Egypt is currently subject to European and Israeli oversight.