IDF Ordered to Hold Fire as Palestinians Launch Fight for Philadelphi

An intelligence report reaching the Israeli military command early Sunday, April 10, disclosed that the five Palestinian teenagers who crawled across the flashpoint Philadelphi route on the Egyptian border Saturday, April 9, were each paid IS1,500 ($348) by Mussa Arafat’s Palestinian military intelligence and the Popular Resistance Committees in the Gaza Strip. It was a well-timed direct provocation to stir up trouble the day before Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon embarked on his American trip – and after. Three of the boys were killed by Israeli fire, sparking a Palestinian mortar-missile blitz Saturday night and Sunday against Gush Katif.
The two Palestinian chiefs knowingly sent the boys to certain death. The IDF recently showed the public new, automatic camera-activated measures installed along the Philadelphi route to halt smuggling from Egypt to the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian provocations are routine for almost every Sharon visit to the United States. This time, Mussa Arafat and head of preventive security Abu Shbak (long-time Palestinian terrorist mastermind for whom Abu Mazen persuaded Israel to grant an amnesty and freedom of movement between the Gaza Strip and West Bank) are intent on driving a strong message home in Washington, Jerusalem and Ramallah: whatever Sharon and the George W. Bush decide in their talks at the presidential ranch in Crawford, Texas, matters are no longer in their hands. The two Palestinian terrorists are firmly in control of the Gaza Strip and what they say goes. Until their authority is recognized, Qassam missiles and mortar fire and other terrorist attacks will keep on coming against Gush Katif and the military positions defending them, as well as targeting Israeli locations across the border.
The two Palestinians have in fact picked up the late Yasser Arafat tactics. He habitually raised the level of attacks whenever diplomatic initiatives were afoot for a fixed purpose: to force all parties and mediators to recognize that the Palestinians hold the whip-hand in any peace process and will determine its outcome by applying terrorism and violence to force Israel to its knees.
Saturday’s flare-up did not come out of the blue. For weeks, the Palestinians have been staging low-profile incidents, shooting ambushes, bomb-traps, infiltrations, dozens of which were thwarted by Israeli military action. debkafile‘s military and intelligence sources pin the process down to mid-March, when Shbak and Arafat warned Abbas and his internal security minister General Nasser Yousef that they were no longer responsible for their safety in the Gaza Strip. Abbas was told that he came at his own risk; Yousef was bluntly informed that if he set foot in the Strip he would be shot. This act of defiance against the Palestinian Authority chairman came on top of the mutiny mounted against him by Palestinian armed groups and forces on the West Bank.
The Israeli government responded to this takeover by another change of course on the disposition of the key Philadelphi border strip after the July pullout from the Gaza Strip. It has now been decided to stay put in this strategic enclave for lack of any other viable option. The two terrorist chiefs have clearly muscled in on the territory. They are the same men who activate the arms smuggling tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Now they claim to have sent Palestinian forces to plug ten of those passages. But these tunnels were only “discovered” after being pointed out by Israeli troops. Furthermore, the Egyptians show not the least interest in taking responsibility for the border route – except by word.
Since Israeli troops are stuck with the strategic strip, army positions have been fortified and upgraded for the long haul with measures that enable them to fight the tunnels and hold out against simultaneous assault from the Palestinian and Egyptian sides of Rafah until reinforcements are brought up.
It is clear to Israel’s leaders that the Philadelphi strip outposts will become the next hot item of controversy, like the positions at the Shabaa Farms enclave in the north. Once Israel civilians are gone from the Gaza Strip, these outposts and their supply convoys will become the prey of constant Palestinian fire.
None of these developments have been brought to public attention, which is why the flare-up on Saturday came as a surprise. Even before the three Palestinian smugglers died, a Qassam missile was fired at Sderot Thursday, April 7, after a pause of several weeks. Earlier Saturday, two large explosive devices were detected and disarmed along main Gaza Strip highways. Popular Resistance Committees claimed to have planted them to blow up Israeli vehicles in order to punish Abu Mazen for not inviting them to last month’s roundtable of Palestinian leaders in Cairo.
Israel’s defense minister Shaul Mofaz ordered Israeli forces to hold their fire Saturday night and Sunday morning, although the mortar and missile blitz on Gush Katif showed no sign of abating and heedless of the evolving Palestinian battle for control of the Philadelphi route. In the vain hope that the Palestinian onslaught would die down of itself, he kept Israeli military action down to nil. In consultation with the prime minister, he ordered the district commander Brigadier Dan Harel to refrain even from the routine silencing of the sources of Palestinian fire. To cover this inaction, Mofaz announced he had sent messages to the Palestinians that they must stop this very serious episode.
The attacks continued.
This is not surprising because the defense minister had no competent address for his messages. The Gaza Strip is out of the hands of Palestinian Authority chairman Abu Mazen, whereas the territory’s strongmen Mussa Arafat and Abu Shbak are themselves ordering the shooting to go on. In these circumstances, debkafile‘s military sources see nothing to stop the attacks from escalating out of control.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email