Gaza Strip is locked down by land and sea, on PM Olmert’s order
Entry and exit of the Gaza Strip are now barred, he said in a tough speech in Jerusalem Monday, June 26.
Olmert vowed Israel’s response would reach every terrorist, every terrorist group where they are, however far away and wherever they hide. No office-holder who bears responsibility will enjoy immunity. debkafile`s sources interpret this as a threat to the Damascus-based radical Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal. “We will act to restore our soldier safe and well to his family,” he said.
Olmert stressed that time is running out for an extensive military action. Israel will not be the object “Hamas, terrorist extortion.” He pledged: “No negotiations are taking place on the release of prisoners – nor will they be. Israel does not intend to put up with “bloodthirsty, terrorist fundamentalist, fanaticism.”
Justice minister Haim Ramon said earlier that the Gaza Strip blockade aimed to hinder kidnapped Gilead Shalit’s transfer to hostile elements across the border into Egyptian Sinai. debkafile adds: The theory that members of the al Qaeda-Palestinian cell in Gaza are among his captors is gaining ground.
Sunday, debkafile reported:
Israeli security officials will be trying to double-guess Hamas leaders’ next steps.
1. They may be satisfied with crowing over their surprise attack on the Israeli position and let the soldier go through a third party.
2. In the worst case, Hamas leaders could decide to kill the Israeli – and then disclaim responsibility – on the assumption that whatever they do, the IDF is bound to come after them at some point to mete out punishment for their deadly raid on a military position within pre-1967 Israel.
3. The Palestinians know how far the IDF will go to save the life of its men and will exact a steep price through the middle-men already at work. Hamas will start by demanding the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, followed by the handover of frozen Palestinian Authority funds. Hamas might even hold out for direct talks with Israel on the soldier’s release, then argue Israel has recognized its right to govern.
4. Hamas is capable of handing Gilead Shalit over to an al Qaeda cell in the Gaza Strip or Sinai and say he is out of their hands.
To save the kidnapped soldier, prime minister Ehud Olmert, defense minister Amir Peretz and Lt. Gen. Halutz will have to pick their way across a tenuous tight rope. The quality of intelligence available to them will determine how much leeway they have for a decision between a military rescue operation or reliance on the mediation of third parties, or between letting the ultimatum take its course, or striking without delay.
It is up to Olmert, Perez and Halutz to clear up the security mayhem spreading out into Palestinian government and southern Israel from the disengaged Gaza Strip before matters get worse. The Qassam blitz was but the prologue of the scenario Hamas and its fellow terrorist groups have charted.