PFLP's Nablus Commander Killed in Raid
Three Palestinians were killed in Nablus trying to escape capture after a four storey building was sealed off by the IDF. One of the dead was the Nablus commander of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The PFLP is the same terrorist group that earlier in the week kidnapped and later released an Australian in the Gaza strip. The other two terrorists killed were members of al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades.
In response to the Israeli raid, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades launched a rocket attack from Gaza into Israel. Five IDF soldiers were lightly wounded by the Qassam rocket explosions. One Palestinian was later killed in Gaza as Israel responded with artillery bombardment of the Qassam launch point.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s office said that Israel ‘has been left no other choice’ but to find a harsher response to rocket attacks from Gaza, signaling the possible increased use of precision airstrikes or, potentially, even a ground incursion into areas of the Gaza Strip. Another possibility being publicly considered is cutting the power to Gaza in the event of a pre-election surge of violence.
Since Israel has uprooted Israeli settlers, fully withdrawn from Gaza and handed it over to the Palestinians, the Palestinians have done little internally to use their new possession productively for anything beyond a launch pad for more attacks. This intent was evidenced immediately following the Israeli turn-over of Gaza, when al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades shot and killed a Romanian construction worker in the northern West bank town of Yabed and claimed the killing by stating plainly:
“We do not agree with the ceasefire,” a group of militiamen from the West Bank town of Jenin said in a statement. “This is our first action. This is the beginning.”
Many feared that the handover of Gaza would lead to no peace between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist groups perennially aligned against it. As ‘the beginning’ has progressed into consistently escalating violence in and from Gaza, those fears appear to have been well founded. In Gaza, the main highway running north and south through Gaza was barricaded by the Israelis until the withdrawal. With the Israelis and the barricades now gone, the new freedom of travel on the route is being exploited by al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades as they have similarly blocked the route demanding jobs. The lawlessness in Gaza sees no signs of abating.
Aside from raids, incursions and other military responses into Gaza and the West bank, Israel is also upgrading its checkpoints around Jerusalem. In the $500M plan to upgrade the Jerusalem crossing points, Israel intends to supplant the armed troops at the current military checkpoints and replace them with civilian contractors. Israel says this will ease tension by removing armed IDF soldiers from the transit points as well as shorten the amount of time it takes to pass through. The Palestinians, however, are objecting, calling it a de facto border without mandate.
While the Palestinians will complain of Israel’s new ‘creation of a border’, which is already walled off, Israeli citizens will surely cry foul when terrorist attacks see a sharp rise as terrorists most assuredly will seek to exploit the absence of armed IDF soldiers at the crossings.