Israeli Army Continues Terrorist Roundup, Secures Open Highways for War Movements
Israel’s roundup of terrorists in Palestinian areas has gone into top military gear since Palestinian terrorists killed 10 Israeli bus passengers going into the West Bank settlement of Immanuel on December 12. That attack prompted a Sharon government turnabout in its attitude towards Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, from acceptance – albeit diminishing – of a potential negotiating partner, to the boycott of a source of spiraling terrorism.
The Israeli campaign kicked off with air force raids that stranded Arafat in Ramallah without his air transport, also pounding Palestinian Authority military installations. For three days now, the offensive has switched to large-scale ground action against terrorist concentrations, weapons and capabilities in Palestinian-ruled towns and villages of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Saturday, December 15, IDF ground units, heavily backed by tanks and APCs, carried out a cleansing operation in the Hamas stronghold of Beit-Hanoun-Beit Lahiyeh at the northern end of the Gaza Strip, hours after Palestinian 120mm mortars were fired at Israeli targets south of the Mediterranean town of Ashkelon. Further south, an armed Palestinian was killed while trying to break into a Jewish settlement.
The operation Saturday targeted Palestinian mortar crews and the operators of more heavy weapons the Palestinians are known to have, such as Katyusha rockets of the type the Lebanese Hizballah fire to harass Galilee in northern Israel. Friday, December 14, similar sweeps took in five large Palestinian villages on the West Bank, rounding up more than 50 suspected and known terrorists and killing 8 Palestinian policemen.
The large-scale Israeli operation has a second, unpublicized objective in addition to repelling terrorist attacks. It is, according to debkafile‘s military sources, to make sure that in the event of wholesale regional war, the main transport routes linking the Mediterranean coast to the Jordan River (and Jordanian frontier), which transit the West Bank remain secure, open and invulnerable to Palestinian military threat. The same applies to the highways linking central Israel to its northern frontiers with Syria and Lebanon, which pass through Israeli Arab regions. For this reason, the United States backs the broad Israeli anti-terror sweep of the West Bank and thwarted a condemnation of Israeli actions in the UN Security Council Friday night.