Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

1 Adar 5762 - February 13, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Tensions Rise as Palestinians Fire Rocket
by Yated Ne'eman Staff and M. Plaut

A Palestinian rocket was fired into the Green Line. Though it exploded harmlessly, its use was a red flag that raised the tension level considerably.

There was no particular incident that could be claimed by the Palestinians as provocation. Apparently, the rocket was launched as soon as they were able to do so. The rockets are short range, inaccurate, and poorly made, but they carry a big enough warhead to cause death and destruction. M

IAF planes and helicopters targeted a number of security installations in the center of Gaza City on Monday, the third reprisal raid in retaliation for the terror murder of two soldiers in Beersheba on Sunday and the firing of Kassam rockets. Palestinians reported more than 30 people wounded in the raids by F-16s and Apache helicopters.

The IDF Spokesman said targets in the Saraya security compound, which houses national security and military intelligence headquarters, were attacked in response to the firing of the rockets.

The IDF expressed regret over the wounding of two UNESCO workers who were on the higher floors of the UNESCO building located near Ansar-2 that was targeted in the IAF attack. The IDF Spokesman stressed that there was no intention to hit the UNESCO building or harm the workers. According to the IDF, the windows in the building were smashed due to the force of the blast when the nearby security headquarters were hit.

Security sources said the Israeli response to Hamas's launch of the Kassam-2 rockets on Sunday is not yet over, adding that the next stage of the rolling operation approved by the cabinet Sunday night is likely to include limited ground operations in Area A (Palestinian-controlled territory).

The US has called the Palestinian deployment of new, longer range Kassam-2 rockets "deeply troubling" and a "provocative escalation."

It also levied some of its toughest criticism in recent weeks on Israel for its retaliatory strikes on PA installations.

"Reports that these rockets have been used we find deeply troubling. Once again we'd say that [PA] Chairman [Yasser] Arafat and the Palestinian Authority need to act now to halt this kind of dangerous and provocative escalation," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

He said the US is "deeply troubled by the upsurge in violence in the region." Seven Israelis have been killed by terrorists in less than a week, and Israel has retaliated by pounding PA installations in the Gaza Strip, wounding a few dozen Palestinians, at least four seriously.

"We're especially concerned by attacks on or near Palestinian prison facilities, reported releases of prisoners detained in those areas, and reports the United Nations facility was struck, with possibly a UN official wounded.

"Attacks such as these are counterproductive to efforts to reduce the violence and restore calm, and we think that both sides need to remain focused on the need for substantive, ongoing security cooperation."

US Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke by telephone over the weekend with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on Monday. Both Fischer and Straw are due in the region soon.

The European Union has broadly endorsed a French blueprint, calling for Palestinian elections and the creation of a Palestinian state to be "immediately" recognized by Israel and admitted to the UN.

"I don't see any particular European proposal at this point," Boucher said. "I know there are some proposals from the French that have been spun that way, but I didn't see any particular statement out of the Europeans to that regard."

It is widely thought that the US is preparing to take action against Iraq and therefore it does not want an escalation in the Middle East to distract them and possibly antagonize allies such as Saudi Arabia.

Israeli Security officials have not ruled out the possibility terrorists in the West Bank may also fire Kassam rockets at towns and cities across the Green Line.

"Hamas fires at them and they attack the PA in response. It's absurd," said Gaza Preventive Security Service chief Muhammad Dahlan.

Monday night, a Palestinian mob forced its way into the prison in Hebron and freed all the prisoners. Several hundred prisoners were also released in Gaza. PA officials said that they feared that the prisons would be attacked. Another official indicated that they were releasing the prisoners as a response to IDF attacks.

IDF troops, tanks, and other armored vehicles entered the Balata refugee camp, southeast of Nablus, for a number of hours to search suspected terrorists and rockets and mortars. An Israeli spokesman said that this operation showed that refugee camps are not off-limits to IDF operations, as has been the case up to now.

Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said that the launching of a Kassam rocket from the West Bank into a populated area will be met with a "severe response."

"We will not be able to restrain ourselves for much longer," Ben-Eliezer said. The firing of the Kassams from Gaza on Sunday was an "intolerable" escalation, he said.

Ben-Eliezer said the continuation of terror would provoke moves that will make life difficult for the Palestinian population, including the renewal of closures on cities and towns.

Ben-Eliezer also said he got the impression the US sees Iraq as a target and asked that Israel receive warning if military action is taken against it. He also said the conflict with the Palestinians is headed toward "significant escalation," a development he characterized as worrisome.

He said he is looking for ways to get Israel out of the conflict, and suggested Egypt could be a factor in breaking the stalemate. He said he does not believe there can be a military resolution, but the current situation cannot continue.

"We can't bury our dead during the day and then sit down for negotiations at night," he said.


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