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Israel Braces For Beit Hanun Reprisals

The Israeli Defense Forces said that the artillery strike that struck a Gaza home was a technical error and not intentional. Seven shells landed and killed 19 Palestinians, and the IDF says it is still trying to figure out exactly why they were 500 meters off target. They were fired at the tail end of an intelligence-driven barrage intended to prevent terrorists from soon setting up and firing Qassam rockets nearby.

40 Qassam rockets were fired from Gaza during the preceding six days of the IDF’s Operation Autumn Clouds on the streets of northern Gaza. And while the United States rejected a Qatari call to “investigate the massacre that took place in Beit Hanun,” at least 14 Qassam rockets were launched into Israel Thursday in the absence of both Israeli troops and suppressing artillery fire.

While IDF officials have apologized for the deaths, offered assistance and halted artillery fire into Gaza pending review, Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said that Israel is not ‘morally responsible’ for the deaths, placing blame instead upon Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad for squandering the Israeli withdrawal and turnover of Gaza to Palestinian control.

Sneh said in an interview with the Jerusalem Post, “We left [the area] entirely, not leaving behind one soldier, and they turned Gaza, especially Beit Hanun, into a launching pad for rockets on our civilians, cynically using their civilian population as a human shield for their terrorist activity. This is a responsibility they cannot evade.” He added, “It’s most probably our mistake and I am sincerely sad about it. We are genuinely trying to do something to help the victims.”

Following Hamas’ vow to exact revenge on Israel with a wave of suicide bombers, Israeli security forces inside Israel are now put on high alert, Level 6, Israel’s highest. Hizballah’s Sheik Hassan Nasrallah challenged Arab states that he criticized for their silence, and called for the arming of the Palestinians. Nasrallah said, “Where are the Arabs? Where are the Arab rulers? … Where is the scream of anger in the face of the butchers to repel them and make them feel that continuing to kill will bring them to their end?” He went on to say that “money, arms and medicines must reach” the Palestinians in order to wage war with Israel.

But while the Israeli artillery may be on hold, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) continues operations. An IAF strike killed two Hamas terrorists traveling in a car south of Gaza City, targeting and killing the head of Hamas’ rocket-making operation, Ahmed Awad. Awad was the son-in-law of Hamas’ Palestinian Authority foreign minister, Mahmoud a-Zahar.

Aside from Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the umbrella Popular Resistance Committees, the small Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is involved in Gaza action as well.

In the West Bank, a Nablus raid was launched against local leaders of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. The two al-Aqsa terrorists were engaged while in the streets at around 2:00am. They escaped and ran into a nearby olive grove, where apparently more IDF troops lay waiting for them and shot the two dead among the trees. A local civilian was reported killed by Israeli fire in the gun battle. But considering he reportedly climbed to his rooftop to view the fighting, he was likely thought to be a sniper by IDF troops during the nighttime operation.

An explosion leveled the Gaza home of the PFLP leader, Talal Abu Safiyah. Initial blame was placed on Israel. However, the home was brought to the ground when explosives inside detonated. No deaths were being reported, but two were said to be pulled from the rubble alive.

Israel’s Level-6 security alert amid over 80 known specific threats of attacks, the Arab-Israeli war seems be heating up, with numerous groups apparently cooperating and likely coordinating attacks.

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The war of attrition between Israel and the Palestinians is going to heat up. The appearance of a Hizballah victory in the north has encouraged the Gaza Palestinians to further military adventures. With supplies of arms coming through the Egyptian border they begin to feel invincible

The Baker Commission's recommendations will be interesting for should they contain a provision to bring Iran and Syria into talks about Iraq surely Iran and Syria will bring Israel to the table. The danger here is that should the US begin a pullout from Iraq then Islamic militant forces can be inserted into Gaza to really stir things up. But like the Chinese say, "Where there's danger, there's opportunity."