JERUSALEM (Aug. 24)
Israel is viewing with skepticism the tentative measures being taken by the Palestinian Authority against terrorism — and is following up by conducting anti-terror operations of its own.
Both Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Israel’s army chief of staff, Moshe Ya’alon, said Sunday that measures the Palestinian Authority is taking in the Gaza Strip are not substantial.
Ya’alon and others said that the Palestinian Authority’s arrests of weapons smugglers and the closing down of arms- smuggling tunnels from Egypt into the Gaza Strip are not the beginnings of a true crackdown on terrorism. They said the moves were a tactical ploy to reduce American pressure on the Palestinian Authority and ward off further Israeli military operations.
That move apparently failed, as Israel struck in Gaza again, firing missiles from helicopter gunships at targets in Gaza City on Sunday night, killing at least four.
Two of those killed were members of Hamas and two were members of Force 17, P.A. President Yasser Arafat’s personal security detail, according to reports.
The strike came after Ya’alon blamed Hamas’ leadership for last week’s attack in Jerusalem that killed 21 people, pointedly referring to the organization’s leaders in both Gaza and Syria.
“If we see that the Palestinian Authority does not deal with this core” of terrorism, “we will be forced to do so,” Ya’alon said before Sunday’s anti-terror strike.
Before the missile strike, Palestinians said the anti-terror operation against arms smuggling was only part of an extensive operation that also would include the collection of illegal arms.
Abdul Razak Majaideh, commander of the Palestinian Authority’s General Security Force in Gaza, ordered his forces to prevent any use of arms in the Gaza Strip or smuggling of new arms into the region. He toured Gaza City and the northern part of the Gaza Strip to make sure that his orders were followed.
The Palestinian commander issued a communique saying that this was part of the efforts of the Palestinian Authority to “restore security in the Gaza Strip.”
But Israeli officials appeared to view the Palestinian actions as too little, too late,” as one government official told Israel’s Channel One television.
Under the threat of a massive Israeli operation in Gaza, Palestinian police forces were deployed Saturday night in the Beit Hanoun area in order to prevent the firing of Kassam rockets toward Israeli targets.
However, Hamas nevertheless managed to fire an improved version of a Kassam rocket on Sunday at an Israeli beach south of Ashkelon. No one was hurt in the rocket attack, which demonstrated a five-mile firing capability. Previously, the Palestinian Kassam rockets had a range of about three miles.
Meanwhile, P.A. President Yasser Arafat reportedly is trying to place one of his loyalists in the Palestinian Authority’s top security position as part of his ongoing effort to sideline the P.A. security chief, Mohammed Dahlan.