debkafile’s political sources: The PFLP`s Ahmed Sadaat is the first head of a Palestinian terrorist group Israel has ever detained in its six-year

The Jericho raid and siege of March 14 opened a new chapter in the undeclared Palestinian-Israeli war in more than one respect. For the first time, Israel held the Palestinian Authority to account for breaching its obligations under an international accord it signed.
Another first: Acting Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert sent a commando force to raid a Palestinian government installation and arrest a top terror chief. Even his predecessor, Ariel Sharon, held an IDF siege force back from detaining the 200 terror chiefs sheltering under Yasser Arafat’s wing in 2002.
Until now, aside from targeted killings, Israel countered ongoing Palestinian suicidal violence by detaining and demolishing the homes of small-time terrorists.
Most significantly, the Jericho operation knocked over more than a Palestinian jail; it blew another gaping hole in the largely dysfunctional Palestinian government.
debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report that in some important ways, the ten-hour Jericho siege also signaled the onset of the Palestinian Iraqi era.
1. The breakdown of central government was plain to see. In Ramallah and Gaza City, neither the Hamas nor any other Palestinian party was capable of assuming the reins of government. Abu Mazen, the Palestinian Authority chairman, was on a visit to the IAEA direct Dr Mohammed ElBaradei in Vienna. He was helpless to manage the Jericho crisis, while the Hamas, which is due to take over government shortly, started off by stammering before fading altogether.
2. This left the field clear for unidentified Palestinian gunmen to go on a rampage, grabbing foreign hostages and setting on fire the British cultural center which also housed European Union headquarters. The major Palestinian terror organizations appeared to have disintegrated into small bands of guerilla-style thugs and criminals on the prowl for trouble, very much like the Iraqi guerrillas in the early days of the Iraqi war. UN, Red Cross and other international aid workers hurriedly departed the Gaza Strip, just as they did in Iraq under similar circumstances.
3. That moment in the summer of 2003 marked the beginning of the full-blown Iraqi guerrilla insurgency. It burgeoned as a result of the gap in governance between Saddam Hussein’s fall and the time it took for the Americans to improvise a form of central government after they realized it was essential for controlling the country.
The Hamas behaved Tuesday exactly like a terrorist group incapable of rising to the challenge of leading a government. This lapse in authority was certainly noted by the half dozen leading terrorist groups lurking in the background quietly for their chance. Among them are the Lebanese Hizballah, subversive agents of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, al Qaeda, Iraqi Baathists, Muslim Brotherhood operatives, Middle East crime gangs and arms smuggling networks. All of them are set to prey on the weakness at the center to grab slices of Palestinian territory and government.
4. The same clandestine trans-Middle East logistical forces that feed money, arms and fighting men to the Sunni insurgents and al Qaeda units in Iraq will now divert some of those resources to the Palestinian territories. With Hamas at the head of government, propped up by the feeble Mahmoud Abbas, there is no Palestinian authority capable of stopping Iraq’s mayhem from spilling over in earnest to the shore of the Mediterranean.

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