Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

3 Cheshvan 5763 - October 9, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Israel May Invade Gaza
by Yated Ne'eman Staff and M Plaut

Saying that as terror attacks originating in Gaza continue "Israel will be forced to act," a senior defense official said that a large scale invasion of Gaza is only a matter of time.

Assessing an incursion on Monday in Khan Yunis that resulted in 14 Palestinians killed and more than 100 wounded, senior IDF officers said that it was a success since it demonstrated to Hamas that they have no safe havens from the IDF.

Many observers, especially from the Left, set up a simplistic dilemma saying that there is no military solution for terror since its source is not a military target but rather the hearts of the people. Therefore, they argue, a diplomatic alternative is necessary.

At the time, the Israeli government seems to reject this dilemma as simplistic, pursuing military advantages as a background and supplement to what will eventually be a political and diplomatic settlement. In hints dropped over the past months, senior officers have implied that the military challenge initiated by Arafat and the Palestinian establishment in September 2000 must be answered militarily before diplomatic progress is possible. In the West Bank, Yehudah and Shomron, this has been forthcoming, but military action in Gaza has been very limited, leaving the infrastructure of both Hamas and the other rejectionist groups, as well as the infrastructure of the PA, largely intact.

It is would have been reasonable to hope that, seeing Israeli success in the West Bank, the Palestinians in Gaza might have moved towards some sort of settlement, however this has not happened. Thus it seems that most Israeli strategists believe that the military answer to the Palestinian terror infrastructure in Gaza must be more detailed.

The PA forces in Gaza have not been attacked, and they are capable of suppressing Hamas activities if they choose to do so. Despite Palestinian pronouncements in English that they are against terror, the PA forces have taken no action in Gaza.

Some defense establishment sources said the IDF was opposed to invading Gaza for fear of casualties on the Israeli side, and government diplomatic sources also indicated concern about the international ramifications.

Some noted that the IDF has kept up a steady pressure in Gaza for more than a month, but mostly in low-level operations that do not make headlines. Some Israeli officials said the actions in Gaza are designed to prevent a major wave of terrorist attacks in advance of a US attack on Iraq, to provoke Israel into a major military action and complicate the US plans.

In commenting on the IDF operation in Khan Unis, Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said that only one of those killed was not a wanted terrorist. Ben-Eliezer said he would release details of the terrorist activity of the 13. "They were all terrorists with long resumes," he said, "except for one innocent elderly woman."

The elderly woman was the mother of one of the terrorists the IDF had come to arrest.

Prime Minister Sharon said the purpose of the operation was to arrest two wanted Hamas terrorists.

"We do not want to harm civilians," said Sharon, "but the terrorists are encamped in the civilian population, and fire Qassam rockets that I can hear from my farm. They lay mines, hurt Israelis in settlements, and send suicide bombers. We have no choice but to act against these hotbeds of terrorism. The operation was meant to arrest wanted men from the Hamas. The forces encountered snipers from the Popular Front and Tanzim, and they had to be withdrawn."

Sharon said Israel regrets the loss of innocent life, but that the responsibility lies with the terrorists who use civilians as human shields. According in international law combatants who hide among noncombatants are responsible for casualties to the innocent, and not those who fight them.

A senior official in the Prime Minister's office said Israel is constantly faced with the difficult choice between taking action and creating deterrence now, or doing nothing and waiting for a "successful" terrorist operation that will require a much heavier response.

On Monday, soldiers, combat engineers and armored units, backed by IAF attack helicopters, went into Khan Yunis, searching for fugitives and terrorist infrastructure. They went to the strongly pro-Hamas Amal neighborhood to nab two terrorists who had evaded arrest. Troops also arrested another Palestinian wearing a belt of explosives and holding a bag of mortar shells.

As the soldiers made their way out of Khan Yunis, armed men outside the Katiba Mosque fired anti-tank rockets and RPGs and threw grenades at them. An attack helicopter fired at least one missile in support of the ground troops, causing the vast majority of the casualties.

Palestinians claimed that the group was on its way to prayers, but an IDF spokesman said that the combat conditions in the area were such that even the most religious people would not have insisted on going to the mosque to pray.

The spokesman said the soldiers responded according to regulations and with restraint, adding that film from a remote-operated drone will support his statements.

The US sharply criticized the operation, saying the IDF "must exercise the utmost discipline and avoid harm to civilians." A White House spokesman said Israel should take "every measure" to prevent civilian casualties, but stressed that it has the right of self-defense.

Palestinian Authority officials pointed out that the raid came hours after Solana met with PA Chairman Yasser Arafat's security adviser Muhammad Dahlan and other senior Fatah leaders in the Gaza Strip.

"Every time we witness efforts to revive the peace process and put it back on track, like those being exerted now by EU envoy Javier Solana," said PA minister Saeb Erekat, "the Israeli government moves to conduct such war crimes and murder innocent civilians, because the end game of the Israeli government is to resume full occupation of the trerritories."

British Foreign Minister Jack Straw said after talks with his French counterpart, Dominique de Villepin, in Paris that news of the attack "greatly disturbed" him. The Russian Foreign Ministry described the operation and actions taken as "disproportionate." UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan criticized the operation as "reckless disregard" of international humanitarian law.

Deputy Defense Minister Weizmann Shiri deemed it a success, part of a war. He added that the soldiers, who encountered stiff resistance from all sides, "had to do the job."

Shortly after the operation, Palestinians fired three mortar shells at a settlement in Gush Katif.


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