Israel Update For April 2006
Just two hours before Israel's newly elected legislature was sworn in on the afternoon of April 17, Palestinian Muslim terrorists carried out the deadliest homicide attack since a city bus was blown up near my Jerusalem home in February 2004. Nine Israeli civilians were slaughtered in the Tel Aviv attack, and over 40 others wounded, a half dozen of them severely.
The atrocity-termed "legitimate self-defense" by the new Hamas-led Palestinian government-was all the more insidious in that it was carried out at a popular local falafel restaurant in south Tel Aviv in the early afternoon, when the eatery was packed with patrons of all ages, including a mother with her young children who was slain in the attack.
Israeli security officials said the atrocity, launched near the end of the Passover holiday week just one day after Easter, was undoubtedly ordered and paid for by the radical Shiite Muslim state of Iran, since it was carried out by the country's proxy Palestinian terrorist force, Islamic Jihad. It came just two days after Iran's extremist president indirectly vowed to use nuclear weapons to instantly wipe tiny Israel off of the world map.
The young Palestinian terrorist pulled on his suicide belt cord just as an alert security guard blocked his entrance into the crowded "Rosh Ha'ir (Mayor) restaurant, frequented by dozens of Chinese, Thai and African foreign workers and local Arabs as well as many regular Israeli customers. The very same restaurant had been struck by another terrorist blast only in mid-January, wounding over 20 people at that time.
The attacker was later identified as a 21 year old out of work waiter from the Palestinian town of Jenin, east of Netanya. With reports saying he may have actually been only 17 or 18 years old, authorities said he was one of the youngest attackers to ever slay Israeli civilians in a deadly suicide assault. Jenin, just east of the Israeli coastal city of Netanya, is a known Islamic Jihad stronghold. Israeli security forces entered the town the morning after the blast, arresting the bomber's father and questioning other relatives. However they did not immediately destroy the family home as frequently occurs after such attacks-a controversial penalty that is thought to add an important incentive to discourage future deadly suicide assaults, but also produces international protests and additional Palestinian anger.
Olmert Vetoes Military Response
One day after the heinous attack, interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert convened his security cabinet to discuss a possible response. Under his guidance, government ministers turned down army recommendations that a major "clean-out operation" be quickly launched, targeting known Islamic Jihad and other terrorist planning centers. Instead, government leaders decided that such an operation might grant some international political legitimacy to the new Hamas Palestinian Authority administration, a potential development that Israel is trying hard to avoid.
The enormous blast, which broke dozens of windows in buildings and vehicles around the stricken area, was the sixth carried out by the Islamic Jihad group over the past 14 months. It was hailed by hundreds of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who "celebrated" the blood-soaked attack in the streets, along with officials in Iran and the country's proxy Hizbullah militia stationed in southern Lebanon.
A "farewell" video made by the youthful attacker was later shown on regional Arab media outlets, with the bomber boasting that he would cut short his life in order to avenge the detention of Palestinian terrorists held in various Israeli jails. He added ominously that "many more brave bombers are on the way."
A foreshadow of his pre-taped statement was posted one day before the attack on the Islamic Jihad website. Group leader Ramadan Shallah was quoted as saying his terror cells were engaged in "nonstop efforts" to infiltrate Palestinian homicide bombers from Samaria and Judea into Israeli cities and towns. "The continuing crackdown against our resistance might limit this effort, but it's not going to stop it," he vowed. One day after the Tel Aviv attack, the web site claimed that "70 other assaults are currently being planned against the Zionist enemy."
Hamas Fails First Test
Israeli officials considered the major terrorist blast to be the first significant test for the new Hamas dominated Palestinian Authority government, sworn into office in early April. Ehud Olmert had earlier stated that the new Israeli government he is forming after his Kadima party captured nearly one forth of the Knesset seats in the March 28th Israeli national election would give Hamas up to one year to demonstrate that it had significantly changed it ways. After that period of time, he pledged to begin taking various unilateral steps designed to enhance Israeli security, especially uprooting some 80,000 Jews from their home in several isolated settlements in Judea and Samaria, and moving the controversial deterrence security barrier further to the east (measures that would actually weaken Israel, maintained his many critics).
In the wake of mid-April's terrorist blast, the militant "Islamic Resistance Movement" (Hamas) only reinforced existing widespread suspicions and concerns that it is not prepared to reform itself now that it has assumed governing responsibilities, as some had hoped, but would instead cling tenaciously to its unholy religious war against Israel.
Confirmation that the blood-stained Hamas enemy had not changed its spots came swiftly after the Tel Aviv attack, when official Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri termed the deadly assault "a natural result of the continued Israeli crimes against our people." He added straightfaced that, "The Israeli occupation bears responsibility for the continuation of its aggression. Our people are in a state of self-defence and they have every right to use all means to defend themselves." How killing and maiming dozens of civilian restaurant patrons engaged in nothing more sinister than eating lunch, some of them non-Israelis, is a legitimate act of "self defense" was not spelled out.