New Palestinian-Israel Clashes Threaten Major Conflagration

Israel’s decision to hit a senior Hamas terror chief was taken in the small hours of Thursday, August 21, in reaction to yet another postponement of a Palestinian Authority crackdown on Hamas and Jihad Islami – even after the deadly bombing by a Hamas suicide killer of a Jerusalem bus packed with Israeli families returning from the Western Wall. Twenty Israelis died in the blast and 150 were injured – many of them children. debkafile‘s military sources reveal that Palestinian internal security minister Mohammed Dahlan, confronted with a demand for action by the US president’s senior Middle East monitor, John Wolf, begged off again. This time, he came up with the lame excuse that his men were grounded by “a shortage of vehicles.”
This prevarication on top of the Hamas attack tipped the already breached ceasefire into breakdown after less than two months. It also gave the lie to Dahlan’s protest that his “dream plan” for tackling the terrorists Friday morning had been pre-empted Thursday afternoon by the Israeli missile attack that killed Ismail Abu Shanab in Gaza City.
It is now clear that there was no dream plan. After six months in office and endless pleas for patience, Dahlan and Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas still lack the will to confront the terrorists.
After hearing Dahlan’s latest and feeblest pretext, Wolf passed the word on to Sharon who thereupon ordered defense minister Shaul Mofaz to begin targeting Hamas leaders.
Abu Shanab was not the favored target, but Dr. Aziz Rantissi, who survived a previous attempt on his life and who, of all Hamas leaders, presses hardest for ever bigger mass-casualty terror attacks. But like his colleagues, Rantissi went to ground after the Jerusalem bus attack. They were all careful to protect their hideouts by switching off their cell phones.
The Israeli air force was directed to hit the first Hamas leader who showed his face and keep on hitting fellow terror masters until they had suffered enough damage to request a ceasefire as they did in June. The Palestinian terrorist groups were desperate enough then – after the Israeli military had wrecked much of their infrastructure – to invent the “hudna”, or ceasefire.
debkafile‘s military sources disclose that Israeli helicopters were able to respond to their orders without delay because the air force had already filled Gaza Strip skies with warplanes, fighters, Apache and Cobra gunship helicopters and drones. Friday they were still on around the clock patrol.
Intelligence experts predict that the coming ten to twelve days will see a lethal cycle of military and terror strikes, in readiness for which Israel goes into the weekend on extra-high alert for trouble. Israeli forcres will go all out for the Hamas leadership and its missile sites and manufacturing facilities in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Hamas will try and make good on its vow to kill Israelis everywhere and carry out ever more lethal suicide attacks. So far, the new Qassam missiles with an extended range of 10-12 kilometers, which Hamas has been testing, have not made an appearance either from the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. They are either being held in reserve or not functioning for some reason.
The length of this fresh round of violence depends on whether the Hamas can draw in fellow terrorist groups, like the suicide arm of Arafat’s Fatah, the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, or the popular resistance committees which represents several groups including Fatah.
The Qassam missile fired Friday morning, August 22, from the southern Gaza Strip against Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak is the first indication that the chief of the local clan of smugglers and gunrunners, Abu Sema Dana, who owes allegiance to Arafat, has decided to jump in and abandon the ceasefire. The further spread of this trend could send the spiral of violence rocketing out of control.
The chronic power struggles between Yasser Arafat and his rivals Abbas and Dahlan in the last six months has diverted the new Palestinian leaders’ attention away from the calls to grapple with Palestinian terror. Above all, they have avoided a knock-down confrontation with Arafat, while endeavoring to translate these calls into leverage for seizing control of the intelligence and security apparatus held in Arafat’s tight grip. On Wednesday, August 20, Abu Mazen and Dahlan demanded that these forces be made available for a crackdown on the Hamas. Arafat denied them permission to go to war against the Islamists and so kept the necessary operational strength firmly out of their reach.
debkafile political sources also disclose something of what passed after the US emissary Wolf took over the interaction between the two Palestinian leaders and Israel. As man in the middle, the American envoy suffered the unpleasant experience of a raging Dahlan who hurled curses and abuse – not omitting President Bush. Wolf warned him against offending the only man who had ever promised the Palestinian people a state of their own.
This exchange between the Bush envoy and the man chosen by the Israelis and Americans to fight terror is bound to leave a scar on future diplomatic contacts for a Middle East peace – when they are resumed.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email