August 28, 2003
Is P.A. Taking Steps Against Terror?
Israel is skeptical about the Palestinian Authority's tentative measures against terrorism -- and is following up by conducting anti-terror operations of its own.
Both Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Israel's army chief of staff, Moshe Ya'alon, said this week that the measures the Palestinian Authority is taking in the Gaza Strip are not substantial.
Ya'alon and others said that the Palestinian Authority's arrests of weapons smugglers and the closing of arms-smuggling tunnels from Egypt into the Gaza Strip are not the beginnings of a true crackdown on terrorism. They said the moves were a tactical ploy to reduce American pressure on the Palestinian Authority and ward off further Israeli military operations.
That move apparently failed.
On Tuesday, a Palestinian bystander was killed in a failed Israeli missile attack in the Gaza Strip. More than a dozen people were wounded in Tuesday's strike near the Jabaliya refugee camp that targeted a member of Hamas' military wing, who reportedly was traveling in a car that was hit.
After the attack, dozens of people gathered around the car's remains, calling for revenge.
On Sunday, however, Israel hit its target.
Missiles fired from Israeli helicopter gunships at targets in Gaza City killed four. Two of those killed were Hamas officials, including Ahmed Shatiwi, a senior member of Hamas' military wing, who was commander of the terrorist group's Kassam rocket operators.
Late last week, before Shatiwi was killed, Palestinians fired a barrage of rockets at Israeli targets, including one that reached an Israeli beach south of Ashkelon.
The other two people killed in Israel's missile strike on Sunday were members of Force 17, P.A. President Yasser Arafat's personal security detail.
Hamas vowed to avenge Sunday's strike.
"Our response will be painful and quick," the group said in a statement broadcast on Al-Jazeera television.
Meanwhile, P.A. President Yasser Arafat appointed his former loyalist and security chief, Jibril Rajoub, as the Palestinian national security adviser. The move is seen as another attempt by Arafat to redirect power away from P.A. Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.
On Wednesday, Arafat called for Hamas and Islamic Jihad to return to a cease-fire. Israel dismissed the statement as "empty rhetoric."
Rajoub, the former head of P.A. security in the West Bank, told The Associated Press that his main goal would be to reorganize the Palestinian security forces, but did not say whether he would crack down on terrorists.
On Tuesday, the United States criticized the appointment, saying it undermined both Abbas and the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan.
White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said the United States believed that the Palestinian security services need to be consolidated under Abbas and Security Minister Mohammed Dahlan.
"That is the way forward," Buchan said.
Under the threat of a massive Israeli operation in Gaza, Palestinian police forces were deployed Saturday night in the Beit Hanoun area to prevent the firing of Kassam rockets toward Israeli targets.
Nevertheless, on Sunday, Hamas managed to fire an improved version of a Kassam that reached an Israeli beach south of Ashkelon. No one was hurt in the attack, which demonstrated a five-mile firing capability. Before the recent "cease-fire" gave the terrorists time to rearm, Palestinian Kassam rockets had a range of about three miles.