Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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27 Tishrei 5764 - October 23, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Israel Strikes Gaza Five Times
by Yated Ne'eman Staff and M Plaut

Israel struck Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza hard on Monday. The repeated assaults in such a short time were expected to have a cumulative effect, aside from the individual shocks. The accuracy of the strikes and the indication of the underlying intelligence information implied forces terrorists to work with great caution. Reportedly, Palestinian leaders communicate with their followers only through written notes, fearing that any other means are monitored by Israel.

Early on Monday morning at about 8 am, as part of Israel's preventive activity against Hamas and other terror organizations in the Gaza Strip, Israel Air Force (IAF) planes targeted a Hamas workshop used to produce Qassam rockets and other weapons in the Sajaita neighborhood of Gaza City. The IDF said the weaponry enables Hamas to carry out attacks against Israel and includes Qassam rockets, mortars, antitank missiles and explosive devices.

According to Palestinian sources, seven people were wounded in the strike, including two toddlers aged 2 and 3. This was not confirmed.

Palestinian sources said the structure belongs to Amar Mushtaha, a Hamas military activist. Mushtaha was lightly wounded, and was extracted from beneath the rubble. The building is about 200 meters from the home of top Islamic Jihad official Abdullah Shami, who was not a target.

About three hours later, IAF helicopters struck a vehicle driven by two Hamas operatives who were involved in weapons production and storage including Qassam rockets, mortars, explosive material and other devices used in terror attacks against Israeli targets. The two Hamas members were killed.

One was Haled Said Matzri, born 1967, a resident of Gaza and a member of Hamas and a senior member of the production line of Qassam rockets and mortars.

Israel Army sources said that the Palestinians were spotted loading the truck with material taken from the building bombed earlier in the day. The pickup had stopped at a traffic light on a busy street crowded with school children, when the missiles hit the front of the vehicle. According to Palestinian sources, a kindergarten and an elementary school had just let out students for the day but none of them were hurt. According to the international rules of warfare, the Hamas operatives must not conduct military operations in civilian areas, and they bear responsibility for any casualties caused by legitimate attacks on them. The driver behind their pickup truck died of injuries he sustained in the attack, according to Palestinian reports.

About an hour-and-a-half later, at 12.25 p.m., helicopters fired rockets at a different Hamas-owned warehouse in which weapons, mortar shells, Qassam rockets, and explosives were stored. Israeli security officials said the building was located in an open area outside of Gaza City, and the size of the explosion caused by the attack showed that it had been full of weapons and explosives.

Monday night, IDF troops were sent to the area of Kibbutz Nahal Oz after reports of an attempt to infiltrate into Israel from the Gaza Strip. The troops killed two Hamas men, whose bodies were booby-trapped. The IDF said that forces then followed a fleeing vehicle carrying four militants who had assisted the infiltrators.

Helicopters fired a missile at the vehicle in the densely populated Nusseirat refugee camp, killing the four passengers. Palestinian sources said that the car was owned by Imad Akel, a senior member of the Hamas military wing, but it was not clear whether he was killed in the attack. Some sources reported that he was killed.

According to Palestinian reports, two more missiles were fired at the car killing five civilians, among them a doctor, and wounding some 50 people who had rushed to the vehicle after the first attack.

Later that night the IDF again attacked the warehouse and workshop in the Sajaita neighborhood, apparently with the aim of destroying it completely. Most of the two-story house, which had been under construction, was demolished.

All told, according to Israeli and Palestinian sources, eleven Palestinians were killed and some 80 people were injured Monday in the IDF attacks. At least 8 of those killed were militants, and perhaps more.

Maj. Sharon Feingold, an army spokeswoman, expressed regret for any civilian casualties, saying militants deliberately placed their weapons depots and factories "well into the heart of Palestinian towns."

Government officials promised no letup.

"The Israeli military will continue to act to foil terror attacks, capture murderers and liquidate terror organizations," Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Monday in a speech to the Knesset. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Israel will continue attacking terrorist targets "everywhere and anywhere at any time." Security officials said the aim of the air strikes was to damage Hamas's capability to wage attacks.

Defense minister Mofaz decided to mobilize several hundred reserve soldiers to bolster the Israel Defense Forces after terrorists threatened renewed attacks. In pronouncements that are routine after such incidents, Hamas leaders vowed to stage an attack of such magnitude that it would "shake Tel Aviv." They have many such outstanding vows.

Military intelligence sources say that Hamas does not lack any motivation to attack and

The IDF said that its attacks were carried out due to the large number of Qassam rockets fired recently from the Gaza Strip into Israel, and not as a response to the killing of three soldiers on Sunday near Ofra Ramallah.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei condemned the strikes, saying they made it harder for him to organize talks on ending violence.

A delegation of Palestinians flew to the United States to press their case against Israel. The group was headed by Palestinian legislator Hatem Abdul Kader, who said the main purpose was to discuss Israel's security fence and construction in Israeli settlements.

Observers said the unspoken subtext was to convince U.S. officials that the Palestinians are interested in peace, despite Arafat's weak response to the bombing of the American convoy.

When PA. security officials met with the FBI team investigating the murder of three U.S. security men in a roadside bombing in the Gaza Strip, the PA. officials briefed the FBI team on their investigation, but wouldn't let the Americans visit those arrested in connection with the attack, let alone interrogate them.

The three guards were killed and a U.S. Embassy official was wounded Oct. 15 when a 220-pound bomb was set off by remote control under a Chevrolet Suburban car traveling in a U.S. diplomatic convoy near the Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun.

Palestinian security forces arrested seven suspects a day later but no evidence was given that they were connected to the American attack. The organization they are affiliated with, a minor group, denied that it had carried out the attack. Palestinian and Israeli sources said the members arrested in connection with the convoy bombing have strong ties to PA. security services. Such ties are typical among sponsors of terrorist attacks.

Gunmen from the Al-Aksa Brigade, the terrorist wing of PA. President Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, ambushed and killed three Israeli soldiers near Ramallah on Sunday. Palestinian militants also fired six Qassam rockets at Israeli settlements on Sunday.


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