Israel Update for June 2006

Continued from page 2

Hamas negotiators attempted during the month to convince Abbas to call off his plebiscite, or at the very least to reword the proposal to leave open the possibility of a future Palestinian armed attempt to annihilate the detested Jewish state. While Abbas stood firm on the main modalities of his proposed referendum, he did give ground to his Muslim rivals in several other important areas. His biggest concession was to endorse an Egyptian mediated plan to allow Hamas militiamen in the Gaza Strip to be folded into official PA security forces under his overall control (Israeli analysts expressed skepticism that the plan will actually be carried out, or would last very long if implemented).

Death and Life

Israeli security officials were well pleased when Iraqi government leaders confirmed on June 8th that Al Qaida branch leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi was killed by American air-launched missiles north of Baghdad. While his nationality was always listed as Jordanian, Israeli leaders realized the terrorist mastermind considered himself a Palestinian since his family had come to Jordan from their hometown of Nablus, north of Jerusalem. Thus, Zarqawi's April pronouncement that his "eyes were on Al Quds" (the Islamic name for Jerusalem) was taken very seriously by security officials, especially since Al Qaida terror cells had recently been uncovered in Samaria. On top of that, Zarqawi had taken "credit' for a rocket attack from Lebanon into northern Israel last month, indicating Al Qaida terror cells had also been established in Palestinian refugee camps located there.

Israeli security officials warned however that Zarqawi's death will not end all Al Qaida terror threats against Israeli targets, especially since it obviously had not halted ongoing insurgent violence in Iraq. They are especially concerned over indications that Palestinian Al Qaida cells may have successfully smuggled US-made Stinger anti-aircraft missiles into PA zones of control. One such Al Qaida shoulder-fired missile was fired at an Israeli commercial jet several years ago in Kenya, but missed its target due to elaborate anti-missile systems that are now standard equipment on all Israeli aircraft.

Despite June's mushrooming violence between Israeli and Palestinian forces, overseas tourists continued to pour into the country in numbers not seen for over half a decade. Officials were concerned however that reports of rising Palestinian-Israeli clashes might spark some group and individual cancellations during the second half of the year. They pointed out that the violence has been mostly confined to the Gaza Strip and areas right around it, which are normally not on most tour itineraries to begin with. "And many peoples will come and say, 'Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths.' For the law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." (Isaiah 3:3). CR

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