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
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
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
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
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]