In less than 24 hours, two soldiers were killed in separate
incidents in the West Bank. In between the two murders of
soldiers, Israeli Apache helicopters fired three missiles
into the pickup truck of an Islamic Jihad fugitive in Rafah
in the Gaza Strip Monday, killing him instantly.
St.-Sgt. Yaakov Krenschel of Nahariya, a reservist, was shot
in the head by a Palestinian sniper as he patrolled near
Salem in Samaria on Sunday night. Sgt. Danny Dara'i, 19, of
Arad, was shot and killed by a sniper while guarding
kever Rochel on Monday afternoon.
Security officials warned that the escalation in violence
will continue and that some of it will be a response to the
army's targeting of those planning attacks on Israelis.
Tanks pounded the sources of Palestinian gunfire in
Bethlehem, the Al Aida refugee camp on its outskirts, and
Beit Jalla. The gun battle continued for more than an hour,
abated for a short period, then resumed for another hour.
During the fight, the Jerusalem-Gush Etzion (tunnel) road
was closed. The IDF also closed all roads leading from
Bethlehem to the surrounding Palestinian villages.
Clouds of white smoke rose from the city, as Israeli tank
shells slammed into the Paradise Hotel, which was turned
into a sandbagged Palestinian fort from which snipers tried
to pick off Israeli soldiers.
According to a senior IDF officer, Mahmoud Abed el-Al, 29, a
leader of the Islamic Jihad's military wing, had
participated in a number of terror attacks in recent months
and had masterminded the Beit Lid bombing attack in January
1995 which claimed the lives of 21 soldiers. The officer
said he was planning another operation when he was
According to Palestinians who witnessed the attack, four
helicopters hovered overhead and two fired missiles at his
Security officials stressed that the initiated operation was
designed to harm those who perpetrate attacks against
Israelis. They said they would continue targeting terrorists
and Palestinian officials involved in attacks.
Security officials said Al had been involved in a series of
bomb attacks in the community of Morag in Gush Katif in
January and February, had planned at least two suicide
bombings in 1997, and in 1994, participated in a shooting
attack against an IDF patrol near Morag, killing one
soldier. He was involved in planning a major attack to be
carried out inside of Israel in the near future. It would
have been the first such attack would have been initiated
from Gaza since the current disturbances began, over six
months ago. All previous attacks were launched from Yehudah
On Sunday night, security forces arrested Capt. Issam
Blibel, a Palestinian naval officer, as he crossed the
Allenby Bridge after visiting Lebanon and Jordan.
According to security officials, he is suspected of being
involved in terrorist activities. His arrest came less than
24 hours after the IDF's Duvdevan unit arrested five Force
17 members and a Palestinian civilian near Jaljilya, inside
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told U.S. Secretary of State
Colin Powell Monday night that Israel had been forced to
step up its operations in the territories because the
Palestinian Authority was not fulfilling its undertaking to
end the violence.
A source close to Sharon said he had explained his policy of
fighting terror while easing the plight of the Palestinian
Israeli military said that Hamas and the Islamic Jihad are
limited in their ability to make large bombs like they made
in 1995-96, since they lack competent successors to Yihiya
Ayash (the Engineer), the Awadalla brothers, Mohi A-din
Sharif and Mohammed Deif.
The government coordinator in the territories, Major General
Yaakov Or, said Monday that alongside stepping up its fight
against terrorism, Israel was continuing to ease conditions
for the Palestinians in the territories.
During a tour of the Karni crossing industrial zone, where
Palestinian trucks pick up and deliver merchandise to and
from Israel, Or told reporters that the number of trucks now
moving through the crossing was almost at the same level it
was before the outbreak of the Intifadah.
The major general did, however, confirm that the economic
situation in the territories was dire, saying that the
decision to allow construction supplies through the crossing
could help get some 30,000 Palestinians back to work.