by DEBKAfile, 25 March 2002

"As a “courtesy” to the US presidential ceasefire broker, Anthony Zinni, and subsequently, to vice president Richard Cheney, prime minister Ariel Sharon interrupted his large-scale military operation against the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades strongholds of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah. The IDF was not allowed to complete its well-conceived campaign, turning the codename of “Root Treatment” into a misnomer.

For the avowed purpose of giving the Zinni mission a chance, Israel pulled its tanks and troops out of Palestinian-ruled areas the day he arrived, March 14. Since then, raging Palestinian terror has claimed 23 Israeli lives and injured 218. Most of the casualties were civilians. In the early months of the Palestinian confrontation, the ratio of deaths between Palestinians and Israelis was 25:1. Today it is 3:1.

The military operation is now being presented as ineffectual and Israel is being prodded towards the diplomacy and accommodation, when the truth is that Sharon declared a unilateral ceasefire and left Arafat free rein for his pre-Passover “ terror offensive”.

It is no wonder that Arafat radiates triumph.

As things stand on Monday, March 25, Sharon’s decision about whether or not to free him to travel to the Arab League summit opening in Beirut Wednesday is irrelevant. Whatever Israel’s “extended security cabinet” decides on this matter, Arafat has demonstrated that whenever Israeli’s military is held back, nothing can prevent him keeping his murderous campaign running.

It is not only running, but he has upgraded its operations by hiring outside help.

DEBKAfile’s military sources, after studying the murder of two Israeli civilians on Sunday, March 24, conclude that they were the handiwork of professional non-Palestinian marksmen, just like the attack on the Wadi Kharamieh roadblock north of Ofra, which left 10 Israelis dead on March 4.

The 23-year old kindergarten teacher Esther Kleinman from Neve Tsuf, was killed almost instantly by shots to the head – although she was traveling in an armored bus. The marksman found the narrow join between armor and window- pane on a moving bus. Avi Sebag, 24, from Othniel, wore a military helmet and combat-grade bulletproof vest. Yet as he drove along the dark roads south of Hebron by night, 5.56mm bullets, the same as the ones found at the Wadi Kharamieh roadblock, hit him fatally in the only exposed part of his body, the neck.

These bulls’-eye hits were not random, but the result of efficient intelligence surveillance and professional marksmanship, bearing the imprint of well-trained non-Palestinian outsiders. One possibility is that they are guns-for-hire recruited in the European underworld for the Palestinians by the Albanian mafia, which is closely allied with al Qaeda and the Lebanese Hizballah. Another is that they were al Qaeda Chechen marksmen, many of whom have found their way to Lebanon.

Another instance of imported terror experts surfaced Sunday morning, March 24, when a Palestinian terror team from Lebanon went through Syria, infiltrated Jordan and penetrated Israel as far as the southern part of the Golan Heights, apparently on its way to stage a large-scale attack in Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. Two were found and killed by the Jordanian army; four hunted down and killed on the Israeli side of the border several hours later. These men were trained by al Qaeda and Hizballh instructors in the Ein Hilweh Palestinian camp in south Lebanon.
A veritable Islamic terror internationale has been recruited for Arafat’s Passover Offensive: Palestinians, Hizballah, al Qaeda, European Muslims and criminals, Albanians, Kosovars and Chechens.

Israeli defense minister, Binyamin bin Eliezer, described this situation Sunday night with typical perspicuity as “a drop in the level of terror”.

In 1998, the Rabin government backed the Clinton administration’s Balkans operation, which ended up fostering the Albanian Liberation Army and its al Qaeda allies instead of US interests in the region. Three Israeli governments have come and gone since then, leaving the terror problem unsolved. Ariel Sharon was elected as the only Israeli leader with proven ability to vanquish Palestinian terror on the battlefield. But like his predecessors, he has failed thus far, because, instead of fighting the blight single-mindedly, he keeps the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords option in view, a mistake that undid the governments of Shimon Peres, Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak.

Sharon, while brandishing the gun with one hand, clutches the Oslo Accords with the other. The Bush government dedicates itself to fighting one kind of global terror, while treating the other kind as a diplomatic partner.

Sending Israeli tanks against Palestinian terrorist command centers and then pulling them back within sight of their target exacts a heavy price in terms of the IDF’s deterrent ability – especially when Arafat loses no time to order his suicides into the breach.

The Israeli prime minister’s flipflop tactics are costly, but he goes on undeterred. At his joint news conference with vice president Cheney five days ago, Sharon declared that Arafat would be allowed to travel to Beirut only if he abides by the Tenet truce plan and undertakes to withhold anti-Israel hate rhetoric. Yet Monday morning, 'official sources' were arguing that if it is better to let him go than have him pose as a victim in Ramallah – as though he cannot strike the victim’s pose equally in Beirut.

The confusion by now is such that the longest-practicing terrorist in history is able to pose as the victim of terror.
Monday, March 25, the Washington Post, finally grasped that in the end Israel will have no option but to reoccupy Palestinian cities and put an end to the nonexistent Palestinian Authority regime. It is non-existent because its chairman and security organs have broken it up into terrorist militias – first the Fatah-Tanzim, latterly the suicidal Fatah al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Yet Arafat’s spokesmen in a show of innocence claim it was broken up under Israeli bombardments – yet more evidence of the reigning confusion."