"This time, no one was killed – only 49 wounded, five seriously and one woman fighting for her life. At 4:20 pm Israel Time, a lone gunmen, later identified as a member of the Aqsa Brigades, the military arm of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah, yelled “Allah Is Great!” and opened up on Jerusalem’s busiest section. He sprayed bullets on a bus, several bus stops, a dress shop, a kiosk and passers-by hurrying past in heavy rain. The terrorist emptied his first magazine, but before he could reload, police patrolling the area on high terror alert leapt forward and after a short chase cut him down.
The attack occurred only yards away from last year’s pizzeria atrocity,
in which 15 Israelis died.
The assailant was quickly identified over al Jazeera TV and Hizballah’s al Manar station as Said Ramadan from the West Bank village of Tel. The incident came hours after Israel forces went into Nablus, located a Hamas laboratory with enough detonators, fuses and explosives to manufacture 100 bombs of the type used by the group’s suicide attackers. Five wanted Hamas activists, all listed as senior operatives of the group’s military arm, Izzadin Qassam and responsible for assorted terrorist attacks in the last six weeks, died defending the facility. Four Israeli troops were slightly wounded.
A Hamas spokesman later vowed all-out war against Israel until its
“1967 and 1948 occupations are ended”.
Incoming military intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi (Farkas) warned the Knesset foreign affairs and defense committee that the most dangerous wave of terror attacks was just ahead. In his opinion, nothing would avail to halt Arafat’s headlong terrorist offensive - even if Israel offered to withdraw to its 1967 borders, gave up all the holy places and consented to the return of 1948 refugees.
This is first public confirmation by an Israeli intelligence officer that Arafat is bent on nothing less than Israel’s defeat and destruction.
Such dire prognoses account for the preventive tactic employed as of this week by prime minister Ariel Sharon, to systematically root out terrorists and emasculate Arafat’s military resources. Chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz has dubbed these tactics “focused counter-terror operations.”
The first target was the West Bank Palestinian town of Tulkarm, entered
for the first time Sunday by a whole Israeli brigade, complete with tanks,
APCs, engineers and helicopters. After rounding up 20 suspects, the contingent
pulled out early Monday, just as a second force entered another West Bank
Tulkarm’s refugee camp, Noor Shams, a notorious hotbed of Tanzim militia terrorist activity, was targeted in between the two for Monday night January 21, but Sharon pulled the operation at the eleventh hour. He was confronted with a sniping barrage at home from the opposition, the media and his own government, chiefly from his Labor party partners. Sharon did not let defense minister Binyamin ben Eliezer know about the change of plan. Since his election as Labor party leader, ben Eliezer’s loyalties have become complicated.
In fact one of the reasons Sharon called off the Noor Shams operation was the declaration by deputy defense minister, Dalia Rabin-Pelesof, who took to the airwaves to declare that the Sharon government and the army command had no strategy except for blindly hitting out in all directions. Her Labor colleagues echoed her in the Knesset foreign affairs and defense committee. Opposition leader Yossi Sarid then accused the Sharon government of promoting terrorism.
Sharon did not answer them. But, privately, he wondered out loud to his aides why Ms. Rabin, one of whose jobs is to pilot the government’s strategic policy, bothered to stay in the government if her opinion of its performance was so low.
DEBKAfile’s political sources note that what really aggravates his opponents is Sharon’s confident air, produced by the strongest backing any Israeli prime minister has ever received from Washington. He knows, and so do they, that he is safe in pursuing his siege tactics against Arafat for as long as he does not take it all the way and eliminate the Palestinian leader.
This US support is not personally-motivated. Sharon is one of the lynchpins of the Bush administration’s projected post-Afghanistan global redesign for the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, Asia Minor, Central and Southwest Asia, while Arafat is viewed as an impediment. Washington therefore cheers Sharon’s efforts to undermine the Palestinian leader, as long as he treads with care and is closely coordinated with the US government – which means not sending the Israeli army into a bloody trap in a Palestinian refugee camp.
With George W. Bush looking firm on a course that ought to take him
to a second term as president, Ariel Sharon can also afford to feel optimistic
about his chances in Israel’s next general election next year - for as
long as he watches where he is treading."