Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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9 Shevat 5765 - January 19, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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PA Orders Crackdown on Violence: Will it Crack Violence or Will Violence Crack it?

by Mordecai Plaut and Yated Ne'eman Staff

The Palestinian Authority's National Security Council and the Cabinet on Monday instructed the PA security forces in the Gaza Strip to prevent attacks on Israel, saying it would not tolerate actions that harm the national interests of the Palestinians.

The Council and the Cabinet are headed by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei. The move is seen as an attempt to head off a large IDF operation in Gaza that Israel is threatening.

PA Prime Minister Qurei told reporters that the PA leadership is serious in its efforts to put an end to the violence.

According to the order, a special intervention force of 500- 700 officers from Palestinian security services in Gaza are to deploy in the area from which rockets and mortars are being launched at Israel.

Communications Minister Azzam al-Ahmed said the PA leadership will first try to persuade the various groups to stop their attacks. He said that Abbas had also issued instructions to recruit gunmen from Fatah's armed terror wing, the al Aksa Martyrs Brigades, into the security forces. A spokesman for the Aksa Martyrs Brigades in Nablus rejected the offer.

Abbas is due to arrive in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday for talks with Hamas and other groups about his plan to arrange a temporary truce with Israel.

At the same time, the Israel Defense Forces were preparing for a possible large-scale operation in the Gaza Strip, a senior IDF officer told Ha'aretz.

"We could quickly mount an operation similar to Defensive Shield in the Gaza Strip," he said, referring to the large operation the IDF carried out in the West Bank in March 2002. The army is preparing to go into the three main areas from which Palestinian fire has been coming: Khan Yunis, Jabalya, Beit Lahia and Beit Hanun. The operation would be larger than any other undertaking so far in Gaza.

As of Monday night, the IDF had not spotted any activity by the Palestinian security forces, but IDF sources admitted that it could take more time.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian rhetoric has become unprecedented. Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei said: "Anyone taking part in military activity in Gaza will be punished." Abbas has been making similar remarks about the rule of law.

A government source said the Palestinians had received vehement messages from the international community demanding an end to the terrorism.

On the Israeli side, hundreds of residents of the Negev town of Sderot, hard hit by ongoing Palestinian rocket attacks, marched in protest Tuesday morning toward the neighboring Beit Hanun in the Gaza Strip from where many of the Kassam rockets are being launched. Organizers said they were satisfied with the turnout.

On Monday, a day earlier, Sderot declared a municipal day of mourning. City leaders took the step after the death of three Sderot residents in last Thursday's suicide attack at the Karni crossing, and the injury of three other residents from a Kassam rocket on Saturday night. Ella Abukasis, 17, who was hit by a Kassam on Saturday was said on Tuesday to be clinically dead at the Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva, Hy"d. Ella's 10-year-old brother Tamir, who was also injured in the attack, is supposed to be released from the hospital Tuesday.

At 7 a.m. on Monday two Kassam rockets landed near Sderot in open fields, causing no damage. An hour later hundreds of the town's residents gathered in the plaza near the municipality building. The plaza was covered with black flags and residents began the day with a public prayer for the healing of the wounded and for the souls of the dead.

It was not anger but mourning. Hundreds of residents came to the vigil and stayed for hours. "This silence is more powerful than outrage. Today our pain receives a different outlet, which includes our protest over the situation," said a resident of Sderot. Many also came from outside Sderot to show solidarity.

All of the schools and kindergartens in Sderot were closed, as were municipal services.

Mayor Eli Moyal said the prime minister had admitted, at a meeting between the two on Sunday, that the government has no solution to the problem of the Kassams.

Over the past four years some 600 Kassams have landed in Sderot, causing four deaths since June.

Prime Minister Sharon has tentatively scheduled next Sunday's cabinet meeting in Sderot, according to Mayor Eli Moyal, who has called for top officials to visit the town.

Senior diplomatic officials said that despite the frustration, so far "no one has written Abu Mazen [Abbas] off."


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