Israel and the Palestinians are spinning different versions of just about every incident of violence in the on-going Palestinian uprising, while a number of "mysterious" mishaps are taking its toll on Fatah militia leaders and Islamic terrorists.
In one major incident on Wednesday, Palestinian sources claimed two Palestinians were killed, one a 14-year-old boy, and 20 others were wounded as IDF soldiers exchanged fire in intense gun battles with Palestinian police and militiamen near the southern Gaza town of Rafah. Palestinians said the two were shot in an unprovoked shooting, but Israel said its forces initially were fired upon in the area beginning some time earlier.
In addition, Palestinian sources reported that a Palestinian man and a ten-year-old boy were killed near Netzarim Junction in Gaza, with two others wounded, one critically. CNN showed footage of bullet holes in a typical vegetable lorry with a firetruck-red cab and Arabic letters which purportedly identified it as a PA civil service vehicle. Local witnesses and hospital officials claimed IDF soldiers fired upon the truck for over a minute in an unprovoked attack, killing the driver and a nearby youngster. The IDF denied any knowledge of the alleged incident.
Meanwhile, HA'ARETZ reports that following the recent rash of deaths, often shrouded in mystery, of senior Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives, several terrorists released from jail by the Palestinian Authority at the start of the uprising are now running scared. Many have appealed for protection from the PA, and even have returned to jail to be placed under protective custody. Among them are believed to be Islamic Jihad terrorists involved in the bus bombing in Hadera which killed two Israelis last month.
A dozen senior activists have been killed recently, say Palestinian sources. In response, senior Tanzim officers have demanded that PA security forces beef up their protection against attacks by Israel. The Palestinian cabinet demanded that Israel halt these attacks.
Monday, Abel Mouati Sabawi, the deputy commander of the Palestinian police in the Gaza Strip, was killed while tending to an undetonated Israeli shell left in Palestinian territory. Israeli military sources say that neither the IDF nor the Shin Bet had anything to do with the incident. This is a sweeping denial, unlike the refusal to comment in some of the previous deaths of senior-level Palestinians.
Many of the cases, like this one, deemed "assassinations" by Palestinians were really "work accidents" of terrorists killed while preparing bombs. But Israel does not always hurry to deny involvement because it enhances the perception Israeli units are scoring successes.
For their part, the IDF says their activities focus on known high-ranking terrorists about whom there is solid information concerning their involvement in terror attacks and the planning of attacks in the near future. And since security coordination with the Palestinian security forces is nonexistent, Israel's need to initiate action is considered significant.
Fatah leader Hussein a-Sheikh said today that Fatah has begun hunting down Palestinians suspected of aiding Israel. In an interview with ISRAEL RADIO, the Fatah leader said the organization will focus its efforts on areas under Israeli security control. A number of Palestinians suspected of aiding Israel in the present conflict have been found murdered in the last few days, presumably as a result of the new Fatah policy.
Currently, the security establishment has numerous warnings of plans by the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad to carry out terror attacks this Friday in Israel in honor of the last Friday of the "holy" month of Ramadan, declared "Jerusalem Day" by the late Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran. Throughout the Muslim world, it has become a symbolic day of mass protest against Israel's reunification of the city in 1967. In recent years, Israel has allowed nearly 400,000 Muslims to come to Jerusalem to pray at the Al Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount on this day. Muslim access to the site has been limited of late due to the uprising, and this Friday promises to be a big showdown in the Old City.
Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti also predicted a serious escalation in the next two weeks leading up to the anniversary of Fatah's establishment. Fatah, headed by PLO chief Yasser Arafat, was founded January 1, 1965, in Egypt.
Tawfik Tirawi, "West Bank" commander of the Palestinian General Intelligence Service has urged Palestinians to step up killings of settlers, declaring that the mounting death toll in settlements and bypass roads built for settler use was the factor that brought Israel back to the negotiating table, ISRAEL RADIO reported Wednesday.
Meanwhile, though a relatively low number of incidents of violence were reported since Monday night, Palestinian shootings, stonings and firebombings, including frequent roadside gunfire and a roadside bomb, continued throughout YESHA. Several Palestinians were killed and injured in these clashes. There were no reported injuries to Israelis, even though several Israeli vehicles were hit by Palestinian gunfire.
Military sources attributed the decrease in the number of incidents to talks between Israel and the Palestinians which opened in Washington Tuesday. Army sources said most of the incidents appear now to be concentrated in Area B - under joint Israeli-Palestinain control - particularly targeting Israeli vehicles, and that a substantial number of these attacks are being carried out by activists in the Palestinian security forces. In Area A - under Palestinian control - Palestinian authorities appear to be trying to prevent incidents, although not in all cases, according to military sources.
There was heavy fire on the settlement of Psagot, near Ramallah in Judea/Samaria MONDAY night. No one was hurt, but several families were evacuated. The gunfire continued for several hours and the army closed the road leading to the settlement.
Late Monday night IDF soldiers arrested the son of the Hebron Palestinian Police Cmdr. Tarik Zaid. According to army officials, the younger Zaid is a known Tanzim activist and is believed to have been involved in numerous shooting incidents in the area.
TUESDAY morning, Palestinians held a commercial strike and schools were closed in protest of the renewal of peace talks in Washington.
Meanwhile the army lifted its closure on Qalqilya in response to the decrease in violent incidents in the area. It is expected that the closure will be lifted in coming days from other areas in Judea/Samaria.
Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.