Friday, January 04, 2008

"Moderate" West Bank manufactures Qassams

From DEBKAfile, January 4, 2008:

Two Qassam missiles in construction and launchers uncovered in West Bank town of Nablus...

...A large Israeli force of several battalions uncovered the first West Bank Qassam workshop in Nablus ... Its presence brings central Israel within range of Palestinian missile fire for the first time.

In the south, the first Katyusha rocket with an extended range of up to 18 km reached northern Ashkelon – another first.....Until now, the shorter-range Qassam missiles reached Ashkelon’s southern outskirts....

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Katyusha Hits Askelon, Kassams Continue to Rain

From THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 3, 2008, by staff, Gil Hoffman and AP:

... IAF warplanes bombarded targets across the Gaza Strip, stepping up pressure on Palestinian terrorists after a Katyusha rocket was fired into Israel.

....The 122mm Grad Katyusha rocket fired from the northern Gaza Strip landed in northern Ashkelon. The rocket was launched from a distance of 16.5 kilometers and was the first projectile fired from the Strip to land so far north. It landed in an open area and did not cause any casualties or damage.

Meanwhile...three Kassam rockets fired from Gaza landed in [Sderot]. One of the rockets landed near a residential building, smashing its windows.

Five more Kassam rockets landed in open areas in the western Negev and 14 mortar shells fired from southern Gaza landed in fields near the Israeli border...

Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for the Katyusha attack. "We are going to launch more strikes in the depth of the entity," they said in a joint statement. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, a tiny group backed by Hamas, also claimed responsibility.

Israeli officials said the attack signaled an improved capability by Gaza terrorists.
"The Palestinians have attacked a major Israeli city ... and thus have upped the ante," said government spokesman David Baker...

...In published comments Thursday, Bush said he would not let a future Palestinian state become a base for attacks on Israel. "I won't lend a hand to the establishment of a terror state on the borders of Israel," Bush told Yediot Ahronot.

Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu responded to the day's events by saying that the policies of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were "amateurish, blind and dangerous" and had already brought the residents of the Galilee and Haifa under Katyusha fire. He warned that the same would happen soon to Ashdod and eventually, Tel Aviv, if the government was not replaced by one led by him.

"They believe Israel needs to withdraw to the 1967 borders, but it is clear to you that if we leave Judea and Samaria, Hamas will take control there," Netanyahu told a meeting of the Likud secretariat at the party's Tel Aviv headquarters. The opposition leader added that pulling back to the 1967 lines "will mean that if terrorists fire a missile with a 20-kilometer range at the center of the country, it will hit Dizengoff Center."

Meanwhile, during his farewell speech, outgoing OC Home Front Command Maj.-Gen. Yitzhak Gershon said that the IDF was making "exceptional and ongoing efforts" to battle Kassam attacks, but has not been able to provide an effective response to the threat. "Israeli communities in the Gaza belt have been under non-stop Kassam attacks" which "prevent an entire strip of land from conducting normal lives," he said.

Thursday's fighting in Gaza was some of the heaviest in months. The IDF said the target of the air strikes were buildings used by Palestinian terrorists, including one weapons storehouse.The attacks were in response to the Katyusha attack on Ashkelon, the army confirmed...

Hudna is no solution

From an Op-Ed in Haaretz, 02/01/2008, by Ely Karmon:

In light of the success of the pinpoint military operations against Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, and signs of weakening in the Hamas leadership, many are calling for accepting Ismail Haniyeh's purported offer of a hudna (a cease-fire), or alternately a tahadiyeh (a lull in the fighting), in exchange for an end to IDF operations in Gaza and a lifting of the siege.

It appears that the decision makers in Israel have learned nothing....

...Israel's acceptance of the hudna proposal would constitute a strategic victory for Hamas and its allies: The organization would be regarded by the Palestinian population as the leading element in the national struggle. It would quickly receive international legitimacy, establish its economic and political control through the generous assistance of the international community, and be able to develop a deterrent military capability vis-a-vis Israel through massive arms smuggling across the Egyptian border.

In a year or two, an extremist state, allied with Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, will emerge on our southern border, with a good chance of taking over the West Bank and affecting the stability of Jordan, Egypt and possibly also the Islamic Movement in Israel. Even if Hamas meets its promise not to violate the cease-fire for several months, Iran and its ally, Islamic Jihad, will do everything in their power to sabotage the negotiations with the Palestinians.

Is the temporary, tactical and relative calm of a few months, maybe even a year or two, sufficient justification for Israel's next strategic failure? Will we not then face a situation similar to what emerged in southern Lebanon following Israel's unilateral withdrawal of May 2000, which led to the forlorn results of July-August 2006?

[Will] those who are now threatening that we will respond in force if Hamas or any other Palestinian group violates the hudna, not find more excuses to avoid taking action against them?

In light of the continued targeting of Israeli communities with rocket fire, and the ongoing smuggling, Israel must employ a tough policy and keep up its effort against a strengthening of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. This should include targeting the organization's leadership, and if necessary, carrying out a ground offensive to take control of the Philadelphi route and segments of the northern Gaza Strip before weapons of strategic significance find their way there.

...Only by bolstering the moderates in the Palestinian leadership and population in the West Bank, while politically and socially weakening Hamas in Gaza, will it be possible, perhaps, for fissures to occur in the Islamic movement and for a joint struggle with the Fatah moderates and the pragmatic leaders among Hamas against the radicals in control in Gaza and elsewhere.

Dr. Ely Karmon is a senior researcher at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Inter-Disciplinary Center, Herzliya.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Egypt, Iran moving towards normalization


At the end of a rare visit to Egypt, a senior Iranian envoy said Tuesday the two regional Muslim heavyweights are making progress in normalizing diplomatic relations, cut nearly three decades ago over regional policy disagreements.

"There is no major problem and everything is moving forward," Ali Larijani, from Iran's powerful National Security Council, said after talks here with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

Larijani, who is also a close aide to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, described the talks as "positive and constructive."

Teheran cut diplomatic ties after Cairo signed a peace agreement with Israel in 1979 and provided asylum for the deposed Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Iran's support for Iraqi Shi'ites, Lebanon's Hizbullah and the Palestinian terror organization Hamas has further deteriorated relations, resulting in very limited diplomatic contacts between the two countries.

Egypt has always maintained that normal ties with Iran would come only after Iran stopped meddling in internal affairs of Arab countries....

Killers of off-duty soldiers near Hebron were PA security officers

From Ynet News, 1/1/08, by Efrat Weiss:

Israeli security officials say two of the terrorists who killed Cpl. Ahikam Amihai and Sgt. David Ruben at Telem Creek area last Friday are members of Fatah's security forces. 'PA trying to evade responsibility for attack,' they say

Two of the terrorists who shot dead off-duty IDF soldiers Cpl. Ahikam Amihai (20) and Sgt. David Ruben (21) as they were hiking near Hebron last Friday were members of Fatah's security forces and are on the Palestinian Authority's payroll, Israeli sources said.

One of the terrorists was identified as 26-year-old Hebron resident Amar Taha, a Fatah member and a member of the Palestinian national security forces. The other terrorists was named as 24-year-old Hebron resident Ali Dandanes, a court clerk and Fatah member with links to the Palestinian general intelligence.

The two turned themselves in to the Palestinian Authority's general intelligence custody immediately following the attack, fearing being captured by Israeli security forces.

The PA did not immediately inform Israel that the terrorists were in its custody, but did so only after Shin Bet officials approached Palestinian officials on the matter....

...."Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack only at the request of the family of one of the terrorists, whose father is imprisoned in Israel, but we carried out the attack...." ....

...An Israeli security official said Palestinian statements claiming that the attack was criminally-motivated contradict the evidence the shin Bet has gathered and the admission of the terrorists themselves during their interrogation by PA security forces.

"These statements were issued in an apparent attempt by the PA to evade responsibility in light of the fact that the attack was carried out by members of Fatah and the Authority's security services," the official said.

Ali Waked contributed to the report

Also see Fatah Terrorism is Alive and Well

Israel suffers 8.2 projectiles per day

From DEBKAfile, January 2, 2008:

Hamas averages 8.2 missiles a day in 2007, steps up Iran-Syrian-backed preparations for full-scale war. Israel improves terror-preventive performance

The annual report of Israel’s domestic intelligence service, Shin Bet, paints a troubling picture of a Hamas-ruled government in Gaza expanding its efforts to build a war machine capable of taking on Israel in full-scale military combat, with active input from Iran and Syria.

In the outgoing year, Hamas and its allies fired more than 1.300 Qassam missiles and 1,700 mortar shells from Gaza, subjecting Israeli communities in an expanding radius to a daily average of 8.2 projectiles.

At the same time, the Shin Bet and IDF were strikingly successful in their preventive campaign. They thwarted 29 major attacks inside Israel originating in Gaza, and the number of Israelis killed by terrorists declined from 50 in 2005 and 24 in 2006 to 13 in 2007.

Nonetheless, the Palestinians mounted a total of 2,946 Palestinian terrorist attacks, 9 less than 2006, including a single suicide bombing in Eilat and another three that were intercepted in time.

No let-up is expected next year. In 2007, Hamas smuggled into Gaza more than 80 tons of explosives for use in the fabrication of missiles and bombs, including roadside devices laid down against an Israeli military incursion....

...The Shin Bet reports that hundreds of Hamas operatives were smuggled through the Sinai tunnels out to Iran and Syria and back for special 2-6 month courses at facilities near Tehran and Damascus in commando combat and the manufacture and launching of missiles.

The Shin Bet report notes that Hamas’ smuggling projects spread out from Gaza to the West Bank, where a new terror machine is taking shape....Hizballah, funded the West Bank project at the rate of the equivalent of $10 million per month. The transfers slowed in recent months.

The Shin Bet reports that Hizballah is diverting more funds to building its own substantial new infrastructures in South Lebanon and north of the Litani River.

On dialogue between Jews and Muslims

From JPost, Dec 31, 2007, by ISI LEIBLER:

Dialogue with Muslims .... [is] helpful and certainly preferable to exchanging diatribes, [but] if the objective is primarily to ingratiate ourselves with Muslims and gain publicity, the exercise becomes counterproductive.

The Jewish track record of dialogue with the Church illustrates that until Pope John XXIII's dramatic condemnation of anti-Semitism at the Second Vatican Council, our efforts had little impact beyond reinforcing relationships with marginal Christian philo-Semites.

Meaningful dialogue requires that both parties agree in advance to accord mutual respect and genuinely commit to exploring means of forging deeper understandings. It also presupposes a willingness to indulge in honest and open discussion rather than mouthing platitudes or employing glib rhetoric to cover up differences. Above all, it demands the involvement of responsible and sensitive Jewish representatives, knowledgeable about Judaism and its place in the world at large.

There are circumstances in which dialogue must be avoided. For example, if the Muslim group concerned refuses to condemn the anti-Semitic tirades emanating from Islamic quarters, or even indirectly condones global terrorism and suicide bombings, or promotes conspiracies such as implying that 9/11 was an Israeli plot. To share stages or collaborate with groups holding such views merely provides a platform for radicals to exploit dialogue as a vehicle to obtain respectability and cover up their extremism.

The problem we face with Islamic religious leaders is that while a number of their spokesmen, under pressure, do ritualistically condemn Islamic extremism, many continue to express sympathy with the radicals, or at best remain silent. The dominant Islamic voices being heard are apologists for violence, terrorism and intolerance. If there are moderate Muslims, they remain mainly in the closet or are sufficiently intimidated to avoid condemning the excesses of their jihadist kinsmen.

In this environment, it is contrary to our interests to continuously repeat the politically correct but utterly false mantra that Islam is a religion of peace. Whereas all three major monotheistic religions incorporate elements of militant piety and violence, Islam, with its unique jihadism, today represents the most violent doctrine.

This is not to deny that given more enlightened religious leaders it could become moderate. But the export of Wahhabism from Saudi Arabia has led to the creation of new Islamic schools and the domination of existing institutions by a religious ideology which sanctifies violence. It is in these sources that martyrs (shahids) and suicide bombers were incubated and became such a dominant element in contemporary Islam....

....Some Jewish representatives also display an unfortunate penchant for demonstrating their liberal credentials by endorsing Muslim demands to outlaw security profiling. ....It is simply a denial of reality to dismiss the ethnic profiles of Arab Muslims when 95% of acts of global terrorism emanate from this group....

..... If we bask in expressions of mutual love but fail to proclaim to our partners in dialogue that Israel is central to our Jewish identity, we make a mockery of dialogue and effectively capitulate to the extremists.

Of course, Muslims are entitled to criticize Israeli policies. But there must be understandings in advance that, as distinct from genuine criticism, efforts to delegitimize or demonize Israel make it impossible for us to share platforms with them. We must also insist that the condemnation of Muslim anti-Semitism be an agenda item in all such encounters.

None of this detracts from our obligation to raise our voices against those who would condemn an entire religion because of the criminal behavior of its individuals. Alas, it is galling that in the Muslim arena there are virtually no such condemnations when it comes to incitement against Israel, the Jews, or even America.

There are nevertheless genuine opportunities to conduct constructive dialogue with judiciously selected Muslim groups. For example, the recent visits of Indian Muslims and Indonesian imams to Israel under the auspices of the American Jewish Committee represent the kind of positive dialogue that should be commended and encouraged.

Bottom line: Dialogue with Muslims becomes counterproductive when we grovel and demean ourselves in order to curry favor. All that is achieved is a fa├žade of goodwill which ultimately only strengthens extremists at the expense of the few genuine moderates within the Islamic community whom we are obliged to continue to seek out, for their sake and ours.

The writer is a former chairman of the Governing Board of the World Jewish Congress and a veteran international Jewish leader.

Explosive chemicals smuggled in EU aid bags

From Reuters, Sat Dec 29, 2007:

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel said on Saturday it had recently seized a truck carrying chemicals used to make explosives hidden in bags marked as European Union aid for the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

The army said 6.5 tonnes of potassium nitrate were in bags marked as sugar from the European Union for Palestinians in the coastal enclave....

...The European Union is the largest provider of humanitarian assistance to Gaza....

...Potassium nitrate can be used to make explosives ....

(Writing by Avida Landau; Editing by Matthew Tostevin)

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Fatah terrorism is alive and well...

From a JPost Analysis, by KHALED ABU TOAMEH, Dec 30, 2007:

Some of the gunmen who participated in Friday's shooting attack near Hebron belong to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction, Fatah activists in the West Bank confirmed over the weekend.

....The involvement of Fatah members in the attack is seen as a serious embarrassment for Abbas and the PA, whose representatives were quick to denounce the perpetrators, pledging to crack down on all armed groups in the West Bank.

The attack shows that several armed Fatah groups continue to operate in the West Bank despite statements by top PA officials to the effect that most of these groups had been dismantled.....

....while such attacks help Fatah score points on the Palestinian street, they also embarrass the PA leadership in Ramallah, especially in front of the international community, which has just pledged to channel to more than $9 billion to the Palestinians over the next three years.

That's why PA officials were quick to condemn the attack...PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad said ... that his government would fulfill its security commitments toward Israel by pursuing those responsible. ....PA Information Minister Riad al-Malki strongly condemned the attack as an attempt to disrupt peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel.

However, both Fayad and Malki are well aware of the fact that the PA's plan to dismantle all the Fatah-affiliated militias in the West Bank is still far from achieving its goal.

Shortly after PA Interior Minister Abdel Razzak al-Yahya announced Saturday that the Aksa Martyrs Brigades had ceased to exist, the group responded by distributing thousands of leaflets throughout the West Bank scoffing at the claim and vowing to continue the armed struggle against Israel.