Israel Update for June 2006

Continued from page 1

Despite the Islamic Jihad claim of responsibility, for the June 5th rocket assault, Israeli army experts announced later in the week that a close examination of shrapnel embedded in the heavily damaged apartment building showed that the exploded rockets were of a more advanced type than produced by the small militant group. In fact, they were said to be Hamas-made Kassams which have a significantly longer range and carry a larger explosive payload.

The revelations prompted Israeli defense officials to warn that they would resume military assaults upon Hamas commanders and activists if Hamas the group did not immediately halt such rocket firings. Indeed, several Hamas figures were killed later in the month after Hamas declared its intention to return to the terrorist warpath. Targeted killings of Hamas members were suspended after the group declared in February 2004 that it would observe a PLO-mandated "time out" ceasefire in its jihad war against Israel. Before that, Hamas terrorist atrocities had left nearly 500 Israelis dead and thousands wounded in a series of attacks that began in late 2000.

Botched Operations Bring UN Rebuke

As the Palestinian rocket barrage against Sderot escalated, additional Israeli targeted air strikes were launched later in the month, mostly against members of Islamic Jihad group. But an Israeli helicopter missile strike was also aimed on June 20th at members of the PLO-linked Al Aksa Martyr's Brigades, said to be on their way to carry out a Kassamrocket attack upon Israeli territory. Officials said the PLO-linked group-which had also formally joined Hamas in endorsing the 2004 "time out" ceasefire had stepped up its own anti-Israel activities after Hamas announced its intention to resume terrorist assaults.

The Al Aksa terrorists managed to escape from their car just seconds before the Israeli air force missile exploded next to it. However several nearby Palestinians were sadly killed and injured, including three children and a teenage boy. The army subsequently apologized for the unintended non-combatant casualties, while noting that Palestinian Kassam rockets are mostly deliberately aimed at Jewish civilians.

The next night, another Israeli missile also missed its intended target-four men from Khan Yunis on their way to launch more Kassam rockets into Israel. Refreshing Palestinian anger over the beach blast that left seven members of a family dead in early June, the missile overshot the intended vehicle target and hit a nearby home instead where a family was just sitting down to dinner. The explosion killed a pregnant mother and her brother and wounded all other family members, most of them children. This brought an immediate call from the office of United Nations chief Kofi Annan for Israel to halt what was termed "targeted assassinations" forthwith.

Israeli officials were not impressed by the one-sided call, which failed to acknowledge that recent helicopter missile strikes have not mainly been "targeted killings" of wanted terrorist leaders, but actual interceptions meant to thwart imminent rocket firings at Israeli civilian centers. "We are condemned for unintended, if unfortunate consequences of our defensive measures, while the Palestinian terrorists, who are bringing our missile strikes upon them by constantly and deliberately targeting our civilians from territory we evacuated last year, are not rebuked for that fact," said a Foreign Ministry spokesman. Meanwhile Knesset opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu urged the government to order military strikes on "Palestinian infrastructure targets" to drive home the fact that Israel will not tolerate continuing rocket attacks upon civilian population centers.

Israel's Shin Bet security chief Yuval Diskin told the Knesset in early June that massive amounts of weapons and explosive material had been successfully smuggled into the Gaza Strip since Israel quit the area last August. If fact, he said the material exceeded the total amount smuggled in over the previous 38 years of Israeli control. An incredible 11 tons of TNT had entered the area, he revealed, along with almost 20,000 illegal rifles and 10 shoulder fired rocket launchers that can potentially take down Israeli aircraft.

Israeli intelligence sources revealed that Hamas weapons experts have been trying to add toxic chemicals to their bombs in an attempt to make their suicide and rocket attacks ever more deadly. However the sources said Hamas bomb factories have not yet succeeded in stabilizing such explosive devices. Teams working on the project are said to include several top Palestinian Muslim scientists. Israeli officials say Hamas is working hard to upgrade all of its weapons, especially suicide belts and Kassam rockets.

Palesinian Referendum

Negotiations continued all month between overall PA leader Mahmoud Abbas and members of the Hamas-dominated PA cabinet to forestall a civil war. Despite this, armed clashes took place several times during the month in the tense Gaza Strip, where a new 3,000 member armed Hamas "security force" had been set up to patrol areas supposedly under the control of PA Fatah-dominated paramilitary forces. Renewed Hamas threats to assassinate Abbas prompted his office to announce he would stay away from the Gaza Strip for the time being. But after he was heavily criticized for what many said was an effective surrender of the area to anti-PLO Islamic forces even before a full fledged battle gets underway, Abbas made his way to Gaza City during the last week of June.

Abbas employed several measures during the month in his efforts to prevent an all out civil war. In particular, he pressed ahead with his "National Reconciliation" referendum proposal that he first suggested as internal armed clashes escalated in May. The proposal, heavily resisted by Hamas politicians, is based on the so-called "prisoners document" drafted in late May and early June by several leading Palestinian terrorists serving time in Israeli jails. Among the crafters of the "unity" document was the populist leader of the Fatah Tanzim terror group, Marwan Barghouti, considered a possible candidate to replace Abbas as PA leader despite his incarceration in an Israeli jail. Other contributors were senior Hamas cleric Abdel Al-Natsche and Sheik Bassam Al-Sadi, who led the Islamic Jihad branch in the town of Jenin before his arrest. Two representatives of the PLO Popular Front and Democratic Front splinter groups also participated in drafting the referendum document.

Announcing that the vote would take place in late July, Abbas said the referendum was designed to end the growing rivalry between mainly secular Palestinian factions and Muslim militant groups, which left nearly 20 Palestinians dead in the first half of June. Voters would be asked to endorse the internationally-backed "land for peace" process that began with the signing of the first Oslo peace accord in 1993, and to support the PLO plan to establish a Palestinian state in land encompassing all of the Gaza Strip and Jordan's former West Bank, including the eastern half of Jerusalem.

The prisoner's document also calls for millions of Palestinian refugees and their offspring to be allowed back into ancestral family homes inside of Israel's pre-1967 borders-which Israeli parties across the political spectrum uniformly reject as a thinly veiled attempt to destroy Israel from within. Abbas again indicated he would resign and call for new parliamentary elections if a majority of Palestinian voters reject the referendum-which would essentially mean they endorse a full reversion to the radical Muslim path of ongoing "jihad" warfare until Israel is wiped off the world map.