Israeli and Palestinian Forces Engaged in Open Warfare
April 5, 2001
Despite renewed political and security contacts, there has been no let up in recent days in the Palestinian-initiated war against Israel, as IDF forces responded with increasingly heavier firepower to Palestinian mortar and sniper attacks.
Less than 24 hours after an IDF soldier was shot by Palestinian terrorists near Nablus on Sunday night, another soldier was killed Monday evening on the outskirts of Bethlehem. As hundreds attended the funeral for the first casualty, 23-year-old St.-Sgt. Yaacov Krenschel on Monday, a Palestinian sniper shot dead Sgt. Danny Darai, 19, of Arad, as he was guarding Rachel's Tomb. Darai was hit in the chest and was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. Heavy fire was exchanged in the town for two hours after the killing, with IDF tanks shelling the dilapidated Paradise hotel, where the sniper fire originated. The sounds of battle could be heard in the center of Jerusalem, and other brief skirmishes broke out elsewhere around Bethlehem.
On Tuesday afternoon, Palestinians from Khan Yunis launched three homemade mortar shells on the Jewish community of Atzmona, in Gush Katif, critically wounding a one-year-old Jewish boy. His mother was also injured while hanging out laundry with her child in tow. In response, Israeli helicopters and tanks pounded Force 17 bases and other selected targets in southern Gaza on Tuesday night, in the largest single operation of the six-month-old conflict.
Fifteen-month-old Ariel Yered was still in critical condition on Wednesday, although he had displayed what doctors called a near-miraculous stabilization after arriving at the hospital at death's door, with no measurable pulse or respiration. The baby boy suffered from multiple head and spinal wounds from the sharp nails shooting out of a mortar shell, and underwent neuro-surgery. His mother Lea was wounded in the chest and hand, another resident was lightly hurt, and four more civilians treated for shock. The attack came a week after Shalhevet Pass, a 10-month-old baby Jewish girl, was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper in Hebron.
Atzmona residents said it was a miracle that others were not hurt, as many children were playing only meters away when the 81-millimeter rocket landed. As soon as residents were free to leave their homes, they went to the synagogue to pray for Ariel and his mother. It was the first time the 70-family Atzmona community has come under attack since the outbreak of violence, although Palestinians have fired mortars on Netzarim, Morag, the Erez industrial zone, and across the Gaza border fence into Nahal Oz. A group linked to Hizb'Allah called the Nasrallah Brigade claimed responsibility for the attack.
As news of the wounded child reached Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon issued a sharp statement saying the Palestinian Authority does not act to prevent terrorist attacks and leaves Israel no choice but to act decisively to continually foil terrorist attacks and protect its citizens. Over recent days, it seems that Sharon has decided to end the "policy of restraint" in the face of escalating terrorism, and has authorized IDF units to temporarily enter PA-ruled areas to strike at the terror networks, while giving the army greater freedom to use tank fire and air power in retaliatory actions.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Shaul Mofaz also told the Palestinians through the press, "We are prepared to negotiate with you immediately, in order to be able to co-exist peacefully. [But] this cannot happen until the terrorism stops, and until we can give Israeli citizens a feeling of security and peace." Mofaz said that even though the military confrontation with the Palestinians is likely to last some time, Israel has the fortitude to deal with the challenge. He said that from the perspective of the front-line soldiers, a real war is being waged in Judea/Samaria and Gaza.
Later last night, seven Israeli helicopter gun-ships hovered off the Gaza coast and launched more than five dozen guided rockets at Force 17 bases and other Palestinian security targets in Gaza City and elsewhere. Some 70 Palestinians were reportedly wounded in the brief but intense surgical air raids. Defiant PA officials insisted the Palestinians were ready to fight to the last woman and child.
While the IAF was conducting the air strikes, Palestinians launched another mortar attack on the IDF's Gaza battalion headquarters in Gush Katif, but there were no casualties.
Overnight, even as reports indicated Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and PA Minister Nabil Sha'ath were about to hold talks in Athens, Palestinian terrorists fired four mortar rounds at Netzarim. In the first reprisal of its kind, IDF gunners this morning fired some 15 mortar shells back at a Force 17 position north of Netzarim where the late-night shelling originated.
IDF officials voiced apprehension today that the string of Palestinian mortar attacks in Gaza will also spread to Judea and Samaria. Israeli security sources say it appears that more than one terror cell is using mortar launchers, including elements from Force 17 and terrorists affiliated with Hizb'Allah and Hamas. The IDF believes that the Palestinians have set up factories in the Gaza Strip to produce mortars, and that the plant has a large quantity of explosives of Egyptian origin. The sources also said the portable mortars can be easily transferred on the roads which remain open, and have been positioned throughout the Strip.
In other incidents of violence, an IDF soldier was lightly wounded last night during an exchange of gunfire between IDF and Palestinian forces near the village of El Khader, south of Bethlehem. Eight residents of an apartment building in Hod Hasharon, near PA-ruled Kalkilya, were also lightly injured when an explosive device blew up in the trunk of a car parked outside the building. Earlier on Tuesday, Arabs hurled two hand grenades at IDF outposts on the border between Israel and Egypt.
Palestinian gunmen opened fire on two IDF outpost posts adjacent to the community of Gadid in Gush Katif today. Palestinians also threw firebombs at an IDF post near the Erez crossing.
Two Palestinians traveling on the Halhoul bypass road near Hebron were wounded when gunmen in another vehicle, apparently with PA license plates, overtook their car and opened fire. Security sources are uncertain whether the shooting was carried out by Palestinian terrorists who thought they were firing at a car carrying Israelis, or if the attack was perpetrated by Israelis.
Two Israelis were lightly wounded in a drive-by shooting near Menora. Shots were also fired at a bus in northern Jerusalem, and at several IDF positions in Judea/Samaria.
Also today, reports indicated that an approximately 50-year-old man was shot and killed while he and a friend walked along a dirt road west of the Sharon region community of Kadima, southeast of Netanya. The shots came from a nearby orchard. Police closed off the area and were trying to locate the assailants. The assault has not yet been classified as a terrorist incident.
It was learned today that Israeli security has apprehended the Arab terrorist who planted a bomb in Netanya last week that was detonated by police sappers before it did any damage. In the course of his questioning, the terrorist, Abdul Rachaman Fouda from Tulkarm, admitted to being a member of the Palestinian "navy." ITIM reported that Fouda provided the name of another prominent PA figure holding the rank of "colonel" in the Palestinian navy [not a usual naval rank] involved in several other terrorist attacks in recent months. This man was subsequently captured by Israel when crossing the Allenby bridge from Jordan.
Finally, Israel released on Tuesday three of the five Force 17 members apprehended on Saturday night, explaining that they were not involved in specific attacks. The other two Force 17 operatives and one additional suspect remain in Israeli custody.
Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.