Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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6 Kislev 5766 - December 7, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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IDF to Launch Major Offensive in Shomron and Gaza

by Mordecai Plaut and Yated Ne'eman Staff

Israel's security cabinet decided on Monday night to launch "a major operation in Judea, Samaria and Gaza" against the Islamic Jihad terror organization. The Palestinian Authority will also be punished by the cancellation of the VIP status granted leading officials which enables them to travel on roads generally closed to Palestinians. Israel also opted to delay the opening of the safe passage route that would have connected the Gaza Strip to the West Bank.

The moves were taken in response to a suicide bomb attack that murdered five in Netanya on Monday that wounded at least 60. Military sources said the operation was liable to last "several weeks or even a month." Overnight Monday the IDF arrested the brother and father of the suicide bomber. The two were caught in the West Bank village of Illar, along with another six fugitives.

Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad claimed the attack in a telephone call to the Hizbullah-run Lebanese TV station, al- Manar. Islamic Jihad has also been responsible for the last five suicide bombings, and Israeli officials said that it is also behind the firing of Kassam rockets from Gaza. This year, there have been three suicide bombings in which Israelis were killed, all of which were claimed by Islamic Jihad.

Chaim Amram, 26, from Netanya, a security guard at the mall; Alexandra Zarnitzki, 65, from Netanya; Daniel Golani, 45, from Nahariya; Eliyah Rozen, 38, from Bat Hefer; and Keinan Tsuami, 20, from Petach Tikva died in the blast. It was the third suicide bombing outside the mall in four years.

Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, condemned the attack and pushed for PA and regional action against the perpetrators. The US, UN and UK, which holds the rotating European Union presidency, also issued sharp denunciations of the attack. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas also condemned the terrorist attack and vowed a crackdown on Islamic Jihad in the West Bank.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz accused the PA of failing to rein in the group and said Israel would do everything in its power to eradicate the terrorists. Israel announced that it would resume targeted killings and Mofaz is also pushing to allow house demolitions.

"This is a necessary step, so that everyone who even considers committing suicide knows there is a price for that," Mofaz said. From the summer of 2002 to the summer of 2004, the IDF demolished 270 homes of families of terrorists, mostly in the West Bank.

Had it not been the courage of two security guards and two police officers, it would have been "a much more deadly bombing," said police Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi. Karadi said that there had been no specific warnings about the bombing.

Shortly before noon, bystanders alerted guards outside the mall to a "suspicious" man trying to enter. Alert bystanders called attention to the bomber, later identified as Lotfi Abu Saada, 21, from the village of Illar, near Tulkarm. A video released by Islamic Jihad showed the bomber posing with a grenade launcher and an assault rifle.

Policewoman Shoshi Attiya began screaming, "He's a terrorist, stop him!" Two guards at the mall's entrance, Chaim Amram, 26, and Tanya Korliov, rushed to apprehend the man, who calmly walked away from them and the entrance. Another policeman rushed to the scene, but when Amram moved to inspect the Abu Saada's shoulder bag, he detonated it.

The force of the blast punched holes in the granite facade of the mall. The blast blew plate glass from the mall's upper stories 30 meters across Rechov Herzl and onto the Netanya Magistrate's Court plaza across the street. Most of the wounded received first aid within four minutes of the bombing, according to Magen David Adom spokesman Yeruchom Mendola.

Police raised the level of alert following the attack and cast a wide net the hopes of apprehending the bomber's driver or other terrorists involved.

Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra defended the security barrier, saying that to date no terrorist has penetrated it. However Israeli and Palestinian accomplices have smuggled bombers into Israel through crossing terminals and he said that they should be dealt with severely.

The attack was the first suicide bombing in Israel since October 26, when a bomber killed six people in Hadera, just north of Netanya.

Troops in the West Bank will carry out targeted killings and will widen arrest operations aimed at Palestinian militant organizations, focusing on Islamic Jihad operatives. A military closure has been placed on West Bank villages and security inspections at crossings between Israel and the West Bank will be tightened.

The Gaza Strip's border crossings have also been sealed to pedestrian traffic but the Karni commercial crossing between Gaza and Israel will remain open.

The IDF's operations are aimed at creating "continuous pressure" on locations where Islamic Jihad operates. In the past few months at least 10 Islamic Jihad terrorists have been killed and scores arrested. Islamic Jihad, which is directed from Damascus and influenced by Iran, is not participating in the PA elections and has never adhered to any cease-fire, as have Fatah and Hamas.

In other news, SELA Disengagement Authority Director Yonatan Bassi said that construction work at Yad Binyamin has been completed and that approximately 1,600 people are being absorbed there. The following were constructed at Yad Binyamin: Four kindergartens, two day-care centers, two synagogues, a club, a community center, eight school classrooms and offices for services to residents. Approximately 250 families from Ganei Tal, Neveh Dekalim, Gedid, Gan Or, Atzmona, Tel Katifa and Netzarim have arrived at Yad Binyamin.

The government also approved the establishment of a temporary residential site at kibbutz Ein Tzurim, which is expected to absorb approximately 85 families from the evacuated communities of Netzer Hazani, Neveh Dekalim and Gedid.


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