Worthy Christian News » Israel-Palestinian Conflict » Middle East Crisis Headlines - April 6, 2001
Middle East Crisis Headlines - April 6, 2001
This week's talk of a possible peaceful end to the over half-year violent crisis rocking the Promised Land has quickly evaporated as the smoke of conflict rose to new levels overnight and this morning in the Gaza Strip. By late morning, Yasser Arafat's forces had fired over 15 mortar shells at Israeli targets, one of them inside Israel proper. Most of the targets were civilian communities, including Kibbutz Netiv Ha Asarah located just north of the Gaza Strip and the isolated Gaza community of Netzarim. One shell landed near a private home in the settlement of Morag. Officials said it was a miracle that no one was killed in the bombings. The unprecedented shelling prompted the Sharon government to order further helicopter missile strikes at PA security positions overnight, leaving a Force 17 base and an electricity power station in ruins and reportedly wounding around five PA fighters. Israeli tanks and naval vessels have also been firing at Palestinian positions according to Arab reports from the area. In other action overnight, Palestinian gunmen shot at Israeli soldiers in several places north and south of Jerusalem after an intense gun battle took place yesterday in the Tulkarm industrial zone east of Netanya. Israel radio says shots were also fired today at the Israeli embassy in the African country of Kenya. Israeli security forces stationed at the embassy in Nairobi returned the fire, but no casualties were reported.
Writing in today's newspapers, some Israeli analysts say they suspect that the ongoing tense standoff between China and the United States may be contributing to the sudden upsurge of Palestinian shelling attacks. They say PA officials may believe that, in light of the superpower crisis, they can escalate assaults upon Israeli civilians without the world media paying much attention. Israeli officials said that the extensive PA violence of the last two days has probably closed the door on further security talks with their Palestinian counterparts. Meanwhile PM Ariel Sharon has defended his controversial decision to send his son Omri to meet with Arafat last weekend, saying it did not violate his pledge to stay away from the negotiating table until Palestinian terror attacks come to an end. "I sent my son to clearly warn the Palestinians that we will struggle against terror, and there will be no negotiations under fire," he told a Likud party gathering Thursday night.
With Passover beginning on Saturday night and thousands of Israelis busy with last minute shopping before the Sabbath begins later today, Israeli security forces are on full alert throughout the country to thwart potential terror attacks. The Islamic Jihad extremist group pledged to launch more atrocities inside Israel after one of the groups leaders, Iyah Hardan, was killed on Thursday in the Palestinian-ruled town of Jenin. Islamic Jihad immediately blamed Israel for the "assassination." Prime Minister Sharon would not acknowledge that undercover Israeli forces had targeted the dead man, saying that "we don't always have to announce such things." Speaking from the groups main headquarters in Damascus, Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Shelah warned that a major attack against Israeli civilians will follow "at a time and place of our choosing," adding that the group will not stop its terrorist attacks "until the Zionist state is totally destroyed." Hardan was killed when an apparently booby-trapped telephone booth he was standing in blew up opposite the Jenin Palestinian police station. Some Israeli and Palestinian analysts said they doubted that Israel had carried out the killing, noting that the nature of the incident indicated it was more likely perpetrated by internal Arab enemies of the Islamic Jihad leader. However thousands of chanting Palestinians who attended Hardan's emotional funeral clearly blamed Israel for the death. Israeli officials said Hardan had planned the 1998 terror attack near the Mahane Yehuda outdoor market in central Jerusalem that injured 21 people, several of them severely.
The United States government has denounced Israeli plans to build 700 more homes in two Jewish communities in the disputed territories, a majority of them in the growing Jerusalem suburb of Ma'aleh Adumim. A State Department spokesman portrayed the construction plans as "a provocative act." The building expansion was announced on Thursday by Housing Minister Natan Sharansky, who said the construction was mainly "a result of natural growth" in the two communities. However, he also acknowledged that it was his intention to "strengthen the citizens living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza in accordance with the government's decisions." The left-wing Peace Now movement attacked the planned construction, charging that "the timing of the announcement raises heavy suspicions that the Housing Ministry is seeking to harm all chances of reaching a cease-fire" with the Palestinians. With attention focused on the struggle with the Palestinians, Israeli security officials say they are also closely monitoring a recent building blitz on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. They say they fear that the Assad regime is planning to move soldiers into the burgeoning new homes in the guise of civilians.
Israel radio is reporting today that North Korea has shipped some 500 advanced surface to surface missiles in recent weeks to Iran, Iraq, Libya and Egypt. The report said that most of the missiles are Scud C's, an improved version of the weapons fired by Saddam Hussein at Israel, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. However, it said around 50 were the more powerful Nodong long-range missiles that can potentially strike Israel from any of the four countries armed with unconventional warheads. The Scud C's reportedly sell for around two million dollars, while the more deadly Nodongs go for seven million dollars. North Korean technicians are being sent to the Mideast countries to train local forces how to maintain and fire the weapons, said the report.