Palestinians hit the West Bank as foretaste of Pre-Disengagement

DEBKAfile Special Report and Analysis

The 17-year old Israeli student shot dead by a Palestinian drive-by killer squad Friday evening June 24 near Beit Haggai, Mt. Hebron, was the third pre-disengagement victim of four Palestinian terrorist attacks this week. Five Israelis were also injured, one seriously.

Earlier, Sgt-Maj Avi Karuchi, 25, from Beersheba, and Yevgeni Rider, 28, from Hermesh, were murdered in a revival of Palestinian violence which is focusing again on the West Bank.

This resurgence of violence erupted on June 19 as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made her foredoomed attempt to persuade Palestinian leaders to cooperate in Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Her quest for a diplomatic understanding was worse than fruitless; it was reciprocated by a dangerous new spiral of
Palestinian violence and threats, as DEBKAfile’s counter-terror experts note:

1. By these attacks, the Palestinians are signaling their determination to keep Israel’s pullbacks from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank under fire. The comparative lull, such as it was, is over as of now. (DEBKAfile reported on April 11 that Abbas’ own Fatah had preset the Palestinian terrorist machine to go into full
gear in Gaza and the West Bank in the second half of June. article

2. As the mid-August evacuation date nears, the attacks will also spread across the Green Line into Israel. Defense minister Shaul Mofaz has said that if Palestinian fire continues after Israel’s withdrawal, the IDF will be forced to retake parts of the Gaza Strip. The new reality requires the extension of his threat to the West Bank
too.

3. The fresh onslaught is a combined effort of all the Palestinian terrorist factions. It is not confined to the Jihad Islami. Therefore, Israel forces’ mass detentions this week of its adherents will not dent the new campaign. The Palestinian woman apprehended at the Gaza Strip’s crossing into Israel on June 20 on her way to blow up the Soroka hospital in Beersheba admitted she was had been sent by
the Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades to blow up the hospital where she had received medical treatment herself.

4. The drive-by shooting in Mt. Hebron, in the southern half of the West Bank, was staged directly after Mofaz visited Hebron and ordered Israeli military positions and checkpoints dismantled, in response to US and European pressure. The Sharon government also ordered the military to prepare for the handover of Bethlehem and Qalqilya to Palestinian security control in the next week or two. The Palestinians were replying that nothing Israel can do in the way of concessions, gestures or eased restrictions will prevent the violence escalating, although their leaders will continue to badger Israel for more.

5. Restoring Bethlehem to Palestinian control augurs fresh attacks on nearby Jerusalem.

6. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and his ministers have no control over the terrorist groups. Therefore their promises to deploy forces for maintaining order are bouncing checks.

7. Masoud Iyad served Yasser Arafat as his personal go-between with the Lebanese Hizballah terrorist leader Hassan Nasrallah. By naming the Friday attack in Mt. Hebron the Masoud Iyad Operation, the Fatah let Abu Mazen know that the organization remains faithful to Yasser Arafat’s path and owes the new leader no loyalty. Fatah, like Hamas, recognizes the Lebanese terror group as its sole partner in action.

Four years ago, on February 21, 2001, Israeli helicopter-borne missiles killed Iyad, having discovered that four months before Arafat declared his confrontation with Israel, he had been sent to Beirut to set up a close operational cooperation with the Lebanese group. Arafat told him to buy from the Hizballah quantities of
weapons and commission its assistance in the coming conflict in the form of instructors, experts in suicide attacks and specialists in the manufacture of mortars and other weapons.

It was then that the Palestinians began experimenting with the development of Qassam surface missiles.

The return of Arafat’s messenger from Lebanon was soon followed by arms deliveries and Hizballah experts and specialists. They worked under the protection of Palestinian security services on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The officer in charge of looking after the Lebanese visitors and assigning them to the different Palestinian security services was Mohammed Dahlan, Abbas’ current minister for
civilian affairs.

By recalling Iyad Masoud’s name, the Palestinian organizations are announcing that the terror war Arafat launched against Israel in 2000 is far from over; it is entering its next phase.

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