DEBKAfile Military Report
August 26, 2007, 3:18 PM (GMT+02:00)
As life in areas abutting the Gaza Strip becomes increasingly hellish and dangerous, their Israeli inhabitants feel as though they live in a forgotten land.
DEBKAfile sources report this sensation was dramatized Saturday, Aug. 25, by the display of astonishing new Palestinian military capabilities and their determination to use them - in the face of a quiescent central government and high command.
For the past week, terrorist attacks from the Gaza Strip have been escalating. They peaked Saturday with an incident that fell just short of a calamity by a fluke. DEBKAfile’s military sources say: This incident threw up in sharp relief the perils in store for as long as the Olmert government holds the military back from its plan to carve out of security buffer strip inside Gaza.
Saturday, two Palestinian suicide bombers, sponsored by three terrorist groups, scaled the 7-ft high border fence at the northern corner of Gaza facing the Erez crossing and the Israeli Netev Ha’asara village, using a complicated rope ladder.
They tried and failed to storm the Coordination and Liaison Command on the Israeli side of the border. The IDF spokesman said the Golani Brigade responsible for security in the area acted correctly.
The truth is that the Palestinian pair managed to penetrate 1.5 km into Israel and spend more than hour there before they were spotted. The army unit went into action only after the infiltrators hurled a grenade at the Coordination Command and were driven off by the lone guard who fired at them. They then headed into open ground, possibly to attack Netiv Ha’asara, when the Israeli unit cornered them and shot them dead.
They were found clad in Israeli military uniforms and well armed for their mission.
Local officers predict that if not stopped, these raids will continue and exact casualties.
Clearly, the high perimeter wall built to keep Gaza’s terrorists out is permeable. Last week, dozens of missiles and mortar shells were flung at Sderot and ten smaller localities where jittery preparations are afoot to start the next school year.
Six missiles were fired Wednesday, seven Thursday, and Friday, four Qassams targeted two kibbutzim and the Karem Shalom crossing. Saturday, mortars pounded all the communities north, east and south of Gaza and, later that night, the blast of an explosion on the Gazan border injured four Israeli soldiers. The missiles kept coming Sunday.
The various terrorist groups, Hamas, Jihad Islami, Fatah- al Aqsa Brigades, the Democratic Front, and Popular Committees, are now operating around the clock. Palestinian marksmen recently acquired their first night-vision instruments which are as good as those used by the IDF. This was discovered last week in a nocturnal shootout with a band of Palestinian snipers near Kissufim.
The security situation on the West Bank and Lebanese borders is just as shaky as the Gaza front. Notwithstanding US assistance and Israeli concessions, extended as props, the Palestinian government headed by Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad is not taking hold. Hamas and Jihad Islami have gained control of a swathe enclosed by Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarm and Qalqilya in the north and Ramallah, seat of the Fatah government, in the south.
Security has deteriorated to the point that Israeli special and undercover units must carry out nightly raids to keep the lid on Palestinian suicide incursions into Israel. Many terrorists are killed resisting arrest.
The Fatah-led Presidential Guard and security services, in whose training and arms the United States and Israel have sunk tens of millions of dollars, are nowhere to be seen. Abbas and Fayyad are otherwise engaged preparing for their next meetings with Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and a long line of foreign peace brokers due for visits next month, with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice marching at their head.
The same paralysis appears to have struck Israel’s prime minister, defense minister Ehud Barak and chief of staff Lt. Gen Gaby Ashkenazi. Until the diplomatic do-gooders have come and gone, they seem willing to keep the national security doctrines of deterrence and counter-terror well hidden in a bottom drawer while the terrorists make hay.
On Israel’s third front, the Lebanese border, DEBKAfile’s military sources reveal that Iran has just completed laying a broad strategic highway connecting the Hizballah-controlled Beqaa Valley on the Syrian border with the Shiite group’s new fortified bases, complete with missiles pointing at Israel, at the northern reaches of the Litani River. This road will for the first direct link between northern and central Lebanon and the south, speeding up Hizballah troop and weapons movements between sectors.
The new missiles delivered to Hizballah include Iranian anti-air weapons and a plentiful supply of C-802 shore-to-ship missiles. Their purpose is to curtail the freedom of Israeli flights and shipping in Lebanon’s skies and off shore.
The Israeli government and high command are allowing the IDF to fall back and retreat in the face of the ongoing Palestinian offensive from Gaza which aims to create a band of fire on the Israeli side of the border and burn up the defensive system of positions, roads and patrols the IDF has created. Local commanders see Palestinian pressure mounting, until the missiles for disrupting the opening of the school year in Sderot and its neighbors are backed by terrorist infiltrators.
Short of a massive invasion to stamp out the terrorists rampant in Hamas-ruled Gaza, the only effective counteraction would be a 1.5-2km cordon sanitaire inside Gaza’s border. By preventing this, the Olmert government and his military advisers are letting the Palestinians terrorize civilians up to two kilometers inside Israeli territory.
Israel leaders’ conduct one year after the Lebanon War shows that nothing has changed and the Hizballah threat which they failed to ward off then is fated to be replicated – this time on three fronts.