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Haaretz- Time for a joint plan of action
by Haaretz
Saturday Jan 15th, 2005 6:04 PM
Ariel Sharon's display of anger at Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) after the suicide bombing at the Karni crossing shows that Israel has chosen to return to the relationship model that was unsuccessfully tried with Yasser Arafat, instead of taking a different path.
If there is no sign that Abu Mazen is encouraging terror, if he means what he says, if he did not know about the attack planned a long time before it was carried out, it may be expected that the government of Israel will give him time and support so that he can work toward a total cease-fire. Demanding that he control Hamas and the other organizations one week after his election, even before being sworn in, by waging all-out war instead of reaching an agreement among the various Palestinian factions, abrogates from the outset Abu Mazen's chance of succeeding in his chosen path.

That does not mean Israel must come to terms for any length of time with the firing of Qassam rockets and mortars and with suicide attacks that take the lives of its citizens and soldiers. The attack at the Karni crossing showed once again that the victims of violence on both sides are almost always unfortunate hostages, people with no connection to terror, who were only trying to make a living that requires them to work in a dangerous place.

Those hostages on both sides will pay the price of retaliation, as well, and of the retaliation for the retaliation, which once again will strike the Palestinian residents of Gaza and the residents of Sderot.

Six mortars were fired at settlements in the Gaza Strip yesterday. A 7-year-old boy was injured in Netzarim. In Sderot, a young woman was critically injured by a Qassam rocket. Sources on the other side reported four Palestinians killed in Israel Defense Forces operations south of Gaza, and two Palestinians killed by a tank shell fired near the Rafah crossing.

Abu Mazen, who was sworn in yesterday, plans to go to the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. Together with Egypt, he will try to advance an agreement for stopping terror emanating from his camp, using nonviolent means. He has once again declared that he will not take up arms against his domestic adversaries and that he should be allowed to make headway in his own way.

Israel will gain nothing from a Palestinian civil war - and will certainly gain nothing from the failure of Abu Mazen, whom everyone believes harbors new hope for the entire region.

The statements against Abu Mazen began Friday from sources around the prime minister. There were telephone calls to world leaders to boycott Abu Mazen, in the old-new tone of confrontation and defiance that never helped put out fires in the past, and is not expected to do so this time, either.

Abu Mazen has to understand that time is short, and that much of what will happen in the near future between the Israelis and the Palestinians, including Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, depends on him and his determination. At his inauguration, the new chairman condemned terror and called for an end to the cycle of violence. Sharon cannot make do with declarations and good intentions. It is precisely at this critical moment that the prime minister should meet with Abu Mazen and try to create a joint plan of action instead of rolling down the slippery slope to another round of bloodshed.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/527529.html
by Haaretz
Saturday Jan 15th, 2005 6:07 PM
The general staff is wondering what the prime minister means when he says there will be no withdrawal under fire. Does he mean that the disengagement plan will not be implemented as long as the terror acts continue, like the one at the Karni crossing over the weekend, or that the duty of the Israel Defense Forces is to ensure that no fire takes place when it is time to pull out?

In other words, is Ariel Sharon conditioning his plan's execution on a radical change in the Palestinians' behavior, or is he sticking to it at all costs and making the army responsible for creating the terms to carry it out?

On the face of it, Sharon appears resolved to carry out the disengagement initiative; this is borne out by his conduct so far, for which he has paid a heavy political price. It also appears to be in Abu Mazen's interests to make it easier for Sharon to implement his plan. Until a year ago, it was said that the prime minister would not uproot a single flower from the settlements, and now he is announcing his readiness to pull out of two whole regions.

However, Abu Mazen does not seem to be helping Sharon with his plan. He is showing no signs of imposing his authority on the Palestinian terror organizations; at most, he wishes to reach understandings with them, and it is doubtful whether he will achieve even that goal. Abu Mazen is an intelligent man. He knows what Israel, Europe and the United States expect of him. He understands that he is doomed if he fails to enforce law and order in the Palestinian Authority, if he fails to subject the armed militias to one authority, purge the corruption, control the money transfers and eliminate the rival power structures. Yet, so far, he appears to recoil from taking firm action to realize the powers that the majority of the Palestinians have invested in him.

Abu Mazen probably understands that bloody terrorist attacks, which cause Israeli casualties, weaken Sharon's ability to carry out his plan. From the start, the disengagement plan aroused intense controversy in the Israeli public, not only because of the ideological rift between left and right, but because of the doubt in the plan's feasibility. It stands to reason that the increase in terror attacks will deepen the doubt in the justness and reason of Sharon's planned move. Abu Mazen is bound to repeat Arafat's mistake and lose the support of the Israeli peace camp. If he continues to cringe from handling terrorism firmly, he will chip away at the majority supporting the disengagement plan and give the prime minister an excuse to revoke it.

This will be a tragic missed opportunity, because Sharon is signaling that he is willing to renounce the unilateral component of his plan and conduct negotiations with the new Palestinian leadership on coordinating its implementation. This option not only serves Sharon's political needs (a chance to add Shas to the coalition), but provides the opportunity to create an atmosphere that is conducive to confidence-building measures between the two sides and to give the disengagement plan a new, political dimension.

The majority presently supporting the disengagement plan is fluid. Only a minority of Israelis is willing to observe the ongoing terrorist attacks calmly, seeing them as steps in a struggle in which foreign hands (Iran and Hezbollah) are also involved. Only a handful would state that the circumstances and considerations that led to the disengagement plan are still valid after the attacks, and that the terrorism in the crossings in the Gaza Strip are a cynical exploitation of a transition period, intended to enhance the prestige of the terror organizations.

Only a small group would admit that, with or without the terror attacks, the situation compels Israel to pull out of the Strip and the rest of the territories. The majority might be swept in the opposite direction, and Abu Mazen should take this into consideration.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/527519.html
by UK Guardian
Saturday Jan 15th, 2005 6:13 PM
Peter Beaumont on the impossible balancing act faced by the new Palestinian chief, Mahmoud Abbas

Sunday January 16, 2005
The Observer

The attack by Palestinian gunmen on Gaza's Karni crossing on Thursday, in which six Israelis died, and Israel's response, seems wearingly familiar. But while a year ago, it would have been possible to say it was simply part of the numbing cycle of violence, inviting inevitable retaliation, this time, however, the violence has a different and more subtle meaning.

The attack, delivered less than a week after the election of 69-year-old Mahmoud Abbas as the successor to Yasser Arafat, has already been disastrous for attempts to start a fresh dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians ahead of a readoption of the road map towards peace and Palestinian statehood.

If there had been some faint hope only seven days ago that more than four years of the intifada were slowly coming to an end, the Karni attack has signalled the deep problems that lie ahead, and within Palestinian society itself.

Karni is an indication of how divided Palestinian society is. Thursday's attack was a brutal message to Abbas and all those who hope to bring the intifada to a conclusion by those Palestinians who most benefit from its continuation; a message from a younger generation that has thrown itself into the violent struggle for statehood that they will not be 'sold out'.

Abbas has already shown in his public statements how difficult is the line he must walk: between maintaining Palestinian ambitions, including at least a symbolic refugee return, and reflecting the weariness of many Palestinians with the conflict and a desire to move, however slowly, towards some kind of settlement.

Israelis used to say of Arafat that he would say one thing in English and another in Arabic. But Abbas's position is more difficult. No matter how much Israelis hated Arafat towards the end (and how much many Palestinians distrusted him) he remained a symbol of the Palestinian struggle. Abbas, despite his long involvement in the struggle, does not yet command the same loyalties or affection. The risk is that he cannot control the struggles in Palestinian life that have long threatened to break out into something more menacing: between the secular and the religious; between pragmatism and the glorification of a pointless violence; between its vast and youthful population who have grown up in the West Bank and Gaza, and an ageing leadership.

Which leaves one of the most serious questions unanswered. Confronted with attacks such as that at the Karni crossing, does he have the ability to challenge those who would rather continue with the armed struggle - Hamas included - and reduce the level of violence against Israelis sufficiently for Israel to act?

It is a moot point. Israel has made it clear that, if the road map is to proceed, Abbas must move against militants when they launch attacks; Abbas's response to this latest attack will determine whether he is regarded as a serious partner. In the aftermath of Karni, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has ordered a cessation of all contacts initiated with Palestinian leaders since Arafat's death. The message to Abbas is clear. Unless he can deliver a hudna - a unilaterally declared ceasefire by all the factions - the troubling logic is of inter-factional violence within Palestinian society itself, an internalisation of violence unlikely to trouble Israel.

And the aftermath of Karni leaves a critical question: how much of a reduction in violence must there be for Israel to respond with confidence-building measures on its own side? While there is an acceptance on the Israeli side that the kind of attacks that have characterised the intifada - including suicide bombings and rocket attacks - are unlikely to end at a stroke, it is clear that a reduction over some months will not be acceptable. Instead, Israel has made clear that it will judge the seriousness of Abbas as a partner for peace in the light of what he can achieve in the first few weeks after his inauguration.

Framed in that context, Karni is a chilling warning to Abbas of how little time he has to make a genuine impact and how difficult it will be.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,1391467,00.html
by Sefarad
Sunday Jan 16th, 2005 3:04 PM
Sun., January 16, 2005 Shvat 6, 5765 Israel Time: 02:41 (GMT+2)

A cynical exploitation of the transition

By Uzi Benziman



The general staff is wondering what the prime minister means when he says there will be no withdrawal under fire. Does he mean that the disengagement plan will not be implemented as long as the terror acts continue, like the one at the Karni crossing over the weekend, or that the duty of the Israel Defense Forces is to ensure that no fire takes place when it is time to pull out?




In other words, is Ariel Sharon conditioning his plan's execution on a radical change in the Palestinians' behavior, or is he sticking to it at all costs and making the army responsible for creating the terms to carry it out?

On the face of it, Sharon appears resolved to carry out the disengagement initiative; this is borne out by his conduct so far, for which he has paid a heavy political price. It also appears to be in Abu Mazen's interests to make it easier for Sharon to implement his plan. Until a year ago, it was said that the prime minister would not uproot a single flower from the settlements, and now he is announcing his readiness to pull out of two whole regions.

However, Abu Mazen does not seem to be helping Sharon with his plan. He is showing no signs of imposing his authority on the Palestinian terror organizations; at most, he wishes to reach understandings with them, and it is doubtful whether he will achieve even that goal. Abu Mazen is an intelligent man. He knows what Israel, Europe and the United States expect of him. He understands that he is doomed if he fails to enforce law and order in the Palestinian Authority, if he fails to subject the armed militias to one authority, purge the corruption, control the money transfers and eliminate the rival power structures. Yet, so far, he appears to recoil from taking firm action to realize the powers that the majority of the Palestinians have invested in him.

Abu Mazen probably understands that bloody terrorist attacks, which cause Israeli casualties, weaken Sharon's ability to carry out his plan. From the start, the disengagement plan aroused intense controversy in the Israeli public, not only because of the ideological rift between left and right, but because of the doubt in the plan's feasibility. It stands to reason that the increase in terror attacks will deepen the doubt in the justness and reason of Sharon's planned move. Abu Mazen is bound to repeat Arafat's mistake and lose the support of the Israeli peace camp. If he continues to cringe from handling terrorism firmly, he will chip away at the majority supporting the disengagement plan and give the prime minister an excuse to revoke it.

This will be a tragic missed opportunity, because Sharon is signaling that he is willing to renounce the unilateral component of his plan and conduct negotiations with the new Palestinian leadership on coordinating its implementation. This option not only serves Sharon's political needs (a chance to add Shas to the coalition), but provides the opportunity to create an atmosphere that is conducive to confidence-building measures between the two sides and to give the disengagement plan a new, political dimension.

The majority presently supporting the disengagement plan is fluid. Only a minority of Israelis is willing to observe the ongoing terrorist attacks calmly, seeing them as steps in a struggle in which foreign hands (Iran and Hezbollah) are also involved. Only a handful would state that the circumstances and considerations that led to the disengagement plan are still valid after the attacks, and that the terrorism in the crossings in the Gaza Strip are a cynical exploitation of a transition period, intended to enhance the prestige of the terror organizations.

Only a small group would admit that, with or without the terror attacks, the situation compels Israel to pull out of the Strip and the rest of the territories. The majority might be swept in the opposite direction, and Abu Mazen should take this into consideration.
by Haaretz
Sunday Jan 16th, 2005 10:06 PM
Mon., January 17, 2005 Shvat 7, 5765 Israel Time: 01:31 (GMT+2)


Three children wounded in attacks still hospitalized

By Nir Hasson


Three children who were wounded in incidents over the weekend remained hospitalized yesterday at Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva.




Ella Abukasis, 17, who was wounded Saturday night by a Qassam rocket in Sderot, is in critical condition in the hospital's intensive care ward and is not out of danger. The condition of her brother, Tamir, 10, who was wounded in the same incident, has improved somewhat. He is said to be in moderate condition and is undergoing treatment in the medical center's neurosurgery ward.

Amit Peretz, 10, who almost lost his forearm in a mortar attack on the Gaza Strip settlement of Netzarim on Saturday, is undergoing treatment in the hospital's pediatric intensive care ward. Peretz is recovering from an eight-hour operation in which doctors reattached his limb.

The Peretz family, which lives in Jerusalem, was spending Shabbat in Netzarim at the time of the mortar attack. "We were in the middle of a tour of the settlement and the mortar shell fell close to the children," Amit's mother, Orit, recounted yesterday. "Amit started screaming and my husband took him to a nearby house, from where he was quickly evacuated to the hospital."

Dr. Yuval Kriger, a plastic surgeon who took part in the surgery on Amit, said the boy "arrived with his bones and blood vessels completely severed; two of the three nerves in the forearm were also severed. In fact, his entire forearm from slightly below his elbow was hanging on by just a piece of skin.

"We were pressed for time because if the muscles stop getting blood for some time, the forearm could die. Luckily for the child, Soroka just recently received the means that enabled doctors to save his forearm. If we had been forced to send him to a hospital in the center of the country, it's very unlikely that it would have been possible to save his forearm."

The operation involved the use of a surgical microscope that was delivered to the hospital just a few weeks ago. This was the second time the instrument has been used, the first being to treat a soldier who sustained injuries in an attack on the Philadelphi Route a month ago.

Kriger said yesterday that the procedure to reconnect the blood vessels had been successful but that it would take six months to a year before it would be possible to ascertain whether the nerves in the forearm would recover fully.
by Haaretz
Sunday Jan 16th, 2005 11:06 PM
It's fortunate that John Kerry arrived in Israel on the plane of the observers of the Palestinian elections in the territories, rather than on Air Force 1. Had the "square" senator met with the prime minister as president of the United States, he would have spoiled the disengagement plan. Instead of praising Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for adhering to the disengagement from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank, the former presidential candidate irritated his host with a story about a miserable outpost, not far from Ramallah. Kerry complained that during his previous visit to the territories, he counted two trailers in that same outpost, and to his surprise, he now found no fewer than 15 residential units on the site. The Democratic senator doesn't understand that if we disengage in Gaza, we don't evacuate in Ramallah. Sharon should have explained to him that "the disengagement plan creates a public atmosphere that makes it difficult to evacuate the outposts."

Even the Yahad faction has internalized the attitude that this is not the time to attack Sharon over the outposts. The left was more critical of MK Yossi Sarid, who refused to vote in favor of the government, than of the policy of targeted assassinations. Peace Now is maintaining a low profile regarding the preparation of land for the construction of thousands of apartments in northwestern West Bank and promotion of the plan to gain control over tens of thousands of dunams in East Jerusalem. It is practically superfluous to mention the Labor Party, which joined the Sharon government without demanding that it commit itself to keeping its promise to President George W. Bush to freeze the expansion of the settlements.

Everyone understands that Sharon has his hands full with the right-wing "rebels" (Likud ministers and MKs who oppose the disengagement), and that this is not the time to challenge him from the left. When even the least of the MKs have the power to bring down the government, the dismantling of the outposts has to wait. This is also not the right time to remove the internal checkposts, to stop demolishing homes, to change the invasive route of the separation fence and to deal with the hilltop hooligans. Every child knows that the Israel Defense Forces is busy with preparations for the disengagement and with the battle against refuseniks and extremists. Every television viewer has heard that the Shin Bet security services have more than they can handle with keeping track of armed Kahanists on the hills of the northern West Bank.

Sharon revealed to Kerry that no fewer than 1,300 soldiers were required to evacuate the outpost near the settlement of Yitzhar, and added: "I am committed to the evacuation of the outposts, but it becomes more difficult as terrorism increases. The fact that terror is being used against us all the time creates opposition."

In fact, you cannot expect the IDF to storm the residents of the Migron outpost at a time when the residents of Sderot are being killed. Palestinian violence, on the one hand, and political constraints, on the other, dictate the agenda of the Israeli government. Any hasty step is liable to undermine the stability of the weak coalition and to put an end to the disengagement plan. There is no choice: We have to grit our teeth - all the way from Netzarim in the Gaza Strip to Kadim in the northern West Bank.

Now let's take the words that Sharon said to Kerry and place them, with the necessary adaptations, into the mouth of Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas): "I am committed to stopping the terror attacks, but it becomes more difficult as the outposts expand. The fact that hardly a week passes without a dead child and a demolished home creates opposition."

Sharon, a politician who was elected by a huge majority, is having difficulty enlisting a stable coalition for evacuating several hundred families from dangerous areas. How can we expect a newly elected Palestinian leader to declare an all-out war "immediately" - in the words of Labor Minister Haim Ramon - against his extremists? It's true that terror and occupation are not the same thing, but neither can we compare the tremendous power that Sharon has at his disposal in the struggle against Jewish extremists with the meager power - both political and military - of Abu Mazen.

Abu Mazen was elected on a platform of ending the violence and developing a political solution to the conflict. However, the desire of a leader, no matter how charismatic and popular, is not enough to restrain a violent struggle against a foreign occupation that continues to steal more and more land.

Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the one who formulated the rule "If they give - they'll receive, if they don't give - they won't receive." This rule apparently works in the opposite direction as well: If the Sharon-Peres government gives the Palestinians an indication that the disengagement from Gaza is the beginning of the road to an end of the occupation in the West Bank, rather than its perpetuation - perhaps that will be a signal for ending the violence instead of escalating it.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/527917.html
by Haaretz
Sunday Jan 16th, 2005 11:16 PM
On paper, the diplomatic plan of new Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is right and good. It is has two components: security and political. The general lines of both components are mostly familiar, since Abu Mazen has spoken about them a lot during his election campaign and especially after he was elected.

The top security issue is the reformation of the security services - especially in the Gaza Strip, where chaos reigns on this front. The heads of the multiple services compete with and fight each other, and their struggle allows for - and perhaps even encourages - terror attacks to be carried out. The well-known medicine is to dismantle the existing services and unify them under three commands: internal security, army and intelligence.

Jibril Rajoub, who has just resigned as national security adviser so that Abu Mazen can choose new advisers, included in his resignation letter many details regarding the changes that need to be made in the security services. The letter was published at the end of last week in the Al-Quds newspaper, and one can suppose that what Rajoub wrote corresponded with Abu Mazen's thoughts on the matter. Several days ago he also publicly resolved his conflict with former security chief Mohammed Dahlan, ending a two-year period of silence between them. This "sulha" appears connected to the anticipated changes in the security establishment.

One of the most difficult problems Abu Mazen faces in implementing the security reforms is the issue of personal appointments. Who will be the new commanders? Every appointment of one of the commanders currently serving will mean the rejection of another. This issue is particularly complicated, and even dangerous, in Gaza, where the various services have become to a great extent the private fiefdoms of the commanders.

In a traditional social structure, such as that existing among a large portion of the Gaza population, soldiers and police officers tend to demonstrate a personal-familial-tribal loyalty toward their commanders. All the security service heads are members of the Fatah movement, and each has a faction supporting him. This means that the rivalry between the commanders manifests itself in a competition for positions of power among the various Fatah factions. Abu Mazen's confidants say he will be very cautious in making the new appointments and may even defer some of them for six months, until after the Palestinian Legislative Council elections.

Regarding the political component, as surprising as it sounds, Abu Mazen's problems with the political opposition - such as Hamas - are simpler than the security problems he faces from within the Fatah. The reason for this is a certain weakness on the part of Hamas. The group's leadership in Gaza has weakened in the wake of Israel's assassination of its top leaders, and the Damascus leadership fears that a change in Syrian policy could lead to the closure of Hamas offices there.

The latest announcements of Hamas spokesmen negate the possibility of a cease-fire. But an interview with the leader of Hamas in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, published on the Bitterlemons Web site, and the statements of Sheikh Hassan Yusef from the West Bank, show a different trend. Both say that Abu Mazen doesn't have a mandate to compel them to agree to a cease-fire because they are defending themselves against the occupation - but Haniya writes: "If there is a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza" - including from the Philadelphi Route - "the Hamas movement will be prepared to halt its military activity because it is important to us to put an end to the suffering of our people."

Abu Mazen currently enjoys international support that Yasser Arafat or any other Palestinian leader has probably never had. His office is flooded with declarations of support from world leaders, especially those of Arab countries. Diplomatic trust such as this could give Abu Mazen a chance, with Egypt's patronage, to arrive at a document of understanding for a cease-fire. In theory he therefore has a chance both in the diplomatic and political arenas. But, of course, reality has a way of changing course.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/527916.html
by Haaretz
Monday Jan 17th, 2005 6:53 AM
Mon., January 17, 2005 Shvat 7, 5765 Israel Time: 15:06 (GMT+2)


Abbas orders security forces to prevent attacks on Israelis

By Haaretz Service


Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas ordered security forces on Monday to prevent Palestinian militant attacks on Israelis, a cabinet minister said.

"Abu Mazen (Abbas) and the cabinet gave clear instructions to the security chiefs to prevent all kinds of violence, including attacks against Israel," minister without portfolio Qadoura Fares told Reuters.

"There are intensified instructions to the Palestinian security forces to assume their responsibilities," Communications Minister Azzam al-Ahmed told reporters after Monday's Cabinet meeting. Asked whether this included trying to prevent attacks, he said: "For sure."

"We have a decision to stop the cycle of violence," al-Ahmed said.

"The attacks by the Palestinian side must come to an end, but Israeli military operations must also end," he said.

But the radical Islamic movement Hamas was swift to announce it would continue with its attacks against Israeli targets, Israel tadio reported.

Israel mulls use of artillery against Palestinian attacks
Earlier Monday, Deputy Defense Minister Ze'ev Boim said that Israelis officials were weighing the future use of artillery in response to Palestinian attacks.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said repeatedly that no limitations have been placed on the IDF, but in practice he has send troops into the Strip largely for "measured responses" to the attacks.

"From the diplomatic standpoint, there is still the desire to grant a certain, if limited, window of time so that Abu Mazen can get organized," Boim said. "The time window is very limited," Boim said, referring to Abbas. "Certainly, there will be no 100 days of grace."

Palestinians gunners fired four Qassams into the Negev and a northern Gaza settlement on Monday morning, Israel Radio reported. There were no injuries.

Sharon told his cabinet Sunday that IDF commanders had been given orders to operate "without restrictions, I repeat, without restrictions" against militant Qassam and mortar crews in the Gaza Strip.

"What is clear is that the IDF will have the authority to take all necessary measures in line with the prime minister's comments at the cabinet meeting yesterday," Prime Minister's Office official David Baker told Haaretz on Monday.

"The prime minister's comments underline his determination to protect Israeli citizens in the face of total inaction by the Palestinian Authority, in all that concerns prevention of terrorist attacks."

Boim: Officials advocating use of artillery
On Saturday, when a teenage girl was critically wounded in a rocket attack on Sderot and two days after six people were killed in the Karni attack, political and military officials threatened to begin a major IDf operation in Gaza. But the atmosphere changed Sunday, when various officials, including Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, asked Sharon to give Abbas some time to deal with the terror organizations.

Nonetheless, Boim said Monday, if the attacks continued, "radical solutions" could be employed against them.

"There are officials and very serious people who say that you must meet a steep trajectory with a steep trajectory, to mark out an artillery battery, make an advance annoucement to the residents, and move artillery up to certain neighborhoods, and then people will understand," Boim told the radio.

"We will not conduct the war like the Americans did in Faluja, for example. Not because we are not a superpower, but because it contradicts our world view, and, justifiably, a great debate will ensue if we do so. But if we warn the population of what may happen, maybe they will understand this language."


Preparing option of widespread raid
Military sources said Sunday that the IDF was preparing for a "measured response" in Gaza. The army intends to carry out a series of local, targeted operations in areas from where the terror groups have launched rockets. The IDF is likely to send relatively small units for a short time. So far a fairly small number of additional troops has been sent to Gaza.

In contrast to its behavior following previous instances of rocket attacks resulting in casualties, the IDF has not yet raided the Beit Hanun area in northern Gaza, from where rockets were most recently fired at Sderot.

For now, the IDF has sufficed with Operation Eastern Step in the Zeitun neighborhood of southern Gaza, its only operation so far. Troops moved into the area before dawn Saturday in reaction to the attack on the nearby Karni crossing between Israel and Gaza. The operation is expected to end shortly. The Israel Air Force also hit three Qassam launchers in Gaza Sunday that were ready for launching.

At the same time, the IDF is preparing for the possibility of a widespread operation that would include capturing a "security strip" in Palestinian towns in an attempt to improve security for the Katif settlement bloc in Gaza and for Sderot. However, such an operation depends on Sharon's decision.
by Haaretz
Monday Jan 17th, 2005 6:57 AM
Mon., January 17, 2005 Shvat 7, 5765 Israel Time: 01:26 (GMT+2)

Analysis / Military actions with political goals

By Zvi Bar'el


The tug-of-war between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has destroyed the agreement they reached prior to the elections for the PA chairmanship.




That agreement was based on Hamas' policy that the election of a new PA chairman was needed to determine their opponent in coming political campaigns, during both the disengagement and during PA parliamentary elections in six months' time. Abu Mazen therefore benefited from "positive abstention" from Hamas supporters during his recent election.

Hamas' plans are based of the assumption that Abu Mazen will avoid violent confrontation with them and the other opposition groups in the PA. Therefore, they feel free to operate against Israeli targets, to gain political points in the Palestinian street. Their goal is to position disengagement as a clear victory for Hamas and its strategy of armed struggle.

To achieve this, Hamas needs to eliminate Abu Mazen's ability to negotiate the conditions of the disengagement with Israel. In implementing this policy, Hamas depends on knee-jerk responses from the IDF and the cabinet. Hamas hopes that Israel's cutting off communication with Abu Mazen, IDF operations in the Strip, continued Qassam and mortar attacks and, no less important, Israel placing responsibility for attacks at Abu Mazen's doorstep, will let Hamas dictate conditions to its liking.

However, Hamas also faces a dilemma. Arafat maneuvered between PA factions and Hamas, but Abu Mazen is less predictable. He might even boycott Hamas entirely. Even if this does not lead to violence between the factions, it could deny Hamas the ability to use terrorist attacks as political blackmail.

Abu Mazen hints at such an option in his frequent pronouncements against terror attacks. Hamas responds with hints of its own that it is ready to reach a deal.

By hinting at conditions for talks, such as the freeing of prisoners, Hamas believes it can prevent a cutting of ties with the PA.

The position of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad leadership outside the Gaza Strip in this dispute is entirely unclear, as is their ability to dictate moves in the the Strip. Publicly, they are committed to a continuation of the armed struggle, but they must also consider the position of Syria, which has come under fire from the U.S. and Europe for hosting their organizations.

Continued Hamas attacks in Gaza attest to a struggle between the domestic and foreign branches of the organization, as was also the case within the PLO in the past.
by Haaretz
Tuesday Jan 18th, 2005 7:38 AM

Last Update: 18/01/2005 02:30

Sderot residents hold day of mourning

By Nir Hasson



Sderot yesterday became the first Jewish town in Israel to declare a municipal day of mourning. City leaders decided to take 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 Qassam rocket on Saturday night. Ella Abukasis, 17, who was hit by a Qassam on Saturday is still fighting for her life at the Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva. Her doctors say she is still in critical condition.




At 7 A.M. yesterday two more Qassam 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 sanctifying the souls of the dead. In one corner members of the Bnei Akiva youth movement of Sderot recited psalms. Ella Abukasis and her brother were members of the youth group and had been walking home when they were hit by the rocket. In another corner students from the hesder yeshiva of Sderot studied under the open sky.

As opposed to the angry demonstrations of recent days, hundreds of residents came to the mourners' 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 Micha Biton, a resident of Sderot, yesterday. Biton, a singer, was called to the stage again and again yesterday to sing his song "Qassam Boulevard" (playing on the meaning of the town's name). The words of the refrain are: "I won't leave town for any Qassam, even if it costs my blood."

"This is not the Sderot you knew, this town's character has changed. Today the songs ring sad," Biton said.

All of the schools and kindergartens in Sderot were closed yesterday, as were municipal services. Most private businesses did not respond to the municipality's call to shut down, but labor representatives from nearby factories arrived at the vigil on organized buses. The speakers criticized the government's inability to stop the Qassams. "One clear voice emerges from Sderot: A government that cannot defend its citizens cannot stay in power," said Mayor Eli Moyal. Later 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 Qassams.

Mixing with the residents at the rally were many who came from outside Sderot to show solidarity, among them singer Kobi Oz, who said, "Whoever once lived in Sderot remains a resident here. I am with you." Zvi Weinstein, a 74-year-old resident of Rehovot, and a carpenter by trade, also came to show support. "People here are crying, people are suffering, so we came to show solidarity. I want to tell Sharon, `If we knew in 1948 how to get rid of whoever was necessary, we know how to do it today.' I don't have to give him advice, that's why I'm a carpenter and he is prime minister."

Among the visitors was President Moshe Katsav, who said, "Abu Mazen needs to understand that his true enemies are the terror organizations." Katsav added that the government is not holding the IDF back: "I understand how people are feeling, but there is no divide between the government and the army."

Prayers for the well-being of Ella Abukasis were also heard throughout the day outside the intensive care unit at the Soroka Medical Center. Some 20 family members have been standing watch for the past three days, with friends and others who came to offer support. Everyone recited psalms continuously for Ella.

Yesterday the family announced that they had changed her name, at the suggestion of several rabbis, to Ayala (doe) Haya (alive) Abukasis, with the hope that this would help in her healing. "We are praying, and call upon all of Israel to pray," said Ella's brother, Ran Abukasis. "With the help of God she will run like a doe. We are living with terrible uncertainty, we haven't left the hospital since the incident. I've been wearing the same clothes since Saturday night," he said.

Ella's 10-year-old brother Tamir is supposed to be released from the hospital today, after his condition improved considerably over the past few days. This morning, Sderot residents will march in protest from the town toward Beit Hanun in the Gaza Strip, where the Qassam rockets are being launched.
by JPost
Tuesday Jan 18th, 2005 8:12 AM
Sderot residents throw mock Kassam rocket into Gaza

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER AND TOVAH LAZAROFF

Several hundred Sderot residents spent Tuesday morning marching to Beit Hanun, a Palestinian town some 10 kilometers west of Sderot from which Kassam rockets frequently rain down. Lead by Mayor Eli Moyal and joined by MKs from across the political spectrum, the crowd was prevented from reaching their goal by police, instead ending the march on a hilltop overlooking the Palestinian town.

In contrast to the rage of many protests of the past, the atmosphere was rather one of determination, a statement of anger towards the government for failing to protect its citizens from the ongoing Kassam barrage. Several people carried mock Kassams made out of cardboard, which they threw towards Beit Hanun.

Border Police and regular police forces were out in strength preventing the demonstrators from continuing into Beit Hanun, but there were no clashes reported.

Joining in the march were residents from nearby kibbutzim, right wing Kach activists, and politicians, including Labor MKs Amram Mitzna and Danny Yatom, Likud's David Levy, along with MKs from the National Union and Am Ehad parties.

"The right should not use Sderot's current situation as an intimidation tactic to halt the ongoing political process", MK Amir Peretz, a resident of Sderot, said.

Peretz claimed that anti-disengagement activists are seeking a halt to the withdrawal process entirely. He emphasized that the peace process is the only answer to the situation in Sderot, and called for not pressuring the IDF for an expeditionary operation because of public pressure. Angry Sderot residents have been calling on the IDF to launch an "Operation Defensive Shield" in the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will convene the cabinet for its Sunday session in Sderot next week as a sign of solidarity, sources in the Prime Minister's Office said. Sharon has called on all Cabinet ministers to attend the meeting.

With the continuing tensions in the city, the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption has opened a special phone line for new immigrant residents of Sderot and the surrounding areas to speak with social workers. The service is provided in Russian, Amharic, Spanish, French and Hebrew with a free phone call to 1255081010 and will be available between 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.

During Monday's citywide "Day of Mourning," in Sderot, Natalie Lazmi clutched her three children closely to her in Sderot's central square. Together they gazed at the large black banner covered with photos of recent local victims of violence. Then she led them away.

On Saturday, a Kassam rocket exploded next to Lazmi's house – the Kassam that gravely injured 17-year-old Ella Abukasis, who is in the same youth group as her daughter.

Lazmi has had enough. Her recommendation for the Palestinian areas used as launching pads for Kassams: "The government needs to erase them. Entirely."

On the ground not far from her feet lay a sign calling for Israel to "occupy Gaza now," a remnant of the morning's demonstration in which hundreds prayed, paraded and sang to protest the attacks that are scarring the town.

Fed up with being pummeled by Kassams, the local residents demanded Monday that the government launch a second Operation Defensive Shield, this time in the Gaza Strip.

The first Defensive Shield incursion, in which the IDF reoccupied large swaths of the West Bank and carried out extensive raids against Palestinian terror groups, began in 2002 shortly after the massacre of 29 people at a Pessah Seder at the Park Hotel in Netanya.

Over the past four years, some 600 Kassams have landed in Sderot, causing four deaths since June. This week, after three Sderot residents were killed in Thursday's attack at the Karni crossing and Abukasis and her brother were injured by a Kassam Saturday night, many locals have reached their limit.

"We have the power to act. We simply need to act," declared Harel Edri, a 20-year-old hesder yeshiva student in Sderot. Edri, who advocated a massive invasion of Gaza, gazed at the banner, which was surrounded by scores of memorial candles.

Edri and the other locals were joined in the square Monday afternoon by National Religious Party MKs who had showed up in Sderot to make the same point about the need for a large-scale military invasion.

"We're sorry that the IDF ended its operation today instead of putting in more troops. We believe that without Operation Defensive Shield II, the Kassam problem won't be solved," said MK Zevulun Orlev, calling the current actions "the minimum of what's needed."

He said that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, eager to push his plan to disengage from Gaza, has decided for political reasons not to mount such an operation. "Disengagement is pouring gasoline over the Hamas Kassams. They want to show that they are making Ariel Sharon run away from the Gaza Strip. The citizens of Sderot are paying the price of disengagement."

President Moshe Katsav, who paid Sderot a solidarity visit on Monday, defended the current government policy. "I am positive that there is no gap between the government and the security authorities. I am positive that the government and the security authorities are speaking with one voice. There is nobody who wants to do more, and nobody who wants to do less," he said. "I am sure the security authorities are doing everything they can to foil the terrorists' intentions."

Mayor Eli Moyal, who joined Katsav on Monday and has called for top officials to visit the town, dismissed the notion that he could suggest an appropriate security strategy to the government. But he did say, "The residents of Sderot feel this government doesn't do enough for them."

He continued, "We demand that the Israeli government do whatever it can to strengthen our people to stay here, and to give them the feeling [that] this government is doing everything it can to foil terror, a feeling that we lack now, so that we can stay here for the people of Israel and for this country forever."

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1105992533247
by Sefarad
Wednesday Jan 19th, 2005 8:17 AM

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/528992.html