Israel Struggles With Attacks and Peace Overtures
Israel continues to hold back regarding Gaza operations as yet another rocket attack was launched from Gaza, the latest by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which injured two Israeli teenagers in Sderot. The PIJ claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming that it was in response for IDF actions in the West Bank.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is expected to meet with his cabinet regarding the current state of the Gaza cease fire as Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz called for a reconsideration of Israel’s Gaza policy. Under current rules of engagement, IDF forces are not permitted to fire upon suspected rocket-launching terrorists seemingly in greater fear of Palestinian civilian collateral damage (and the global outcry that follows) than of the risk of injury or death to Israeli citizens. Israel’s military intelligence warned once again that Hamas is using the Gaza cease-fire to beef up military forces, saying that they are nearing semi-military capability. Haaretz reported that, according to IDF Brigadier General Sami Turjeman, there has “recently been a significant improvement in the terror groups’ capabilities regarding sniping, defense, launching anti-tank missiles, and other areas.”
The Hindustan Times reported that, according to a report in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Hamas has reached an agreement with Pakistani terror groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen in a meeting between the two groups and a Hamas official in Pakistan over the summer.
The paper alleged that an agreement was reached, based on three points. One that Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and LeT will have the possibility of going to West Asia (Syria and Lebanon) to learn new terror techniques from Arab Mujahideens; second, Palestinian “elements” will seek refuge in the centres managed by the Pakistani outfits in the Waziristan area and third, there could be exchange of information relating to the use of explosives and the methods to smuggle them.
A recent pledge made by Olmert to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for dismantling 27 of the 400 IDF checkpoints has come under fire from the IDF forces charged with running them. Seeking to provide concession to Abbas in the greater effort to weaken Hamas within the PA government, the intent was to allow Palestinians greater freedom of movement. But this freedom of movement is precisely what the IDF seeks to avoid. The commanding general of the IDF’s Central Command, Major General Yair Naveh, protested saying, “You are asking me to remove a roadblock, and that damages my ability to thwart a terror attack. The roadblocks assist in thwarting and preventing the movement of wanted men in the West Bank.”
Responding to President Bush’s pledge to help create a Palestinian state within his term, the official Hamas English-language website published Hamas’ Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh’s outright dismissal of the concept, which was predicated around temporary borders until a settlement could be reached. HAMAS site statement disregarded the notion by declaring that “Washington should recognize the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights including establishment of a fully-sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, release of all prisoners and return of refugees.”
Washington has problems of its own regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict with US Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) meeting directly with Syria’s Bashar Assad in another congressional visit disregarding the president’s policy of no direct dialogue with the state sponsor of terror. Specter emerged declaring that Syria wants to sue for peace with Israel, repeating Assad’s overtures to the same. But Israeli intelligence – among others – is highly suspicious of the sudden reversal from the Syrian regime. While it is generally accepted that Syria seeks to regain the Golan Heights currently occupied by Israel, most Israeli observers dismiss as wishful thinking the premise that Syria’s Bashar Assad is seeking to distance himself from the Iranians and endear himself to the United States and Israel.
The Syrian dictator has ordered the wide-scale arrest of military officers and civilians. This is a move of self-preservation, and Assad has more to fear from an Iran capable of inspiring and launching an insurgency on his Allawite regime far more effectively and readily than the prospects of an IDF-led ground invasion.