With increasing demands by Israeli government cabinet ministers to launch a large-scale operation in Gaza in order to put a stop to the Gaza bombardment on Sderot and Ashkelon, a senior Israel political source confirmed to the Israeli media on Thursday that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak secretly visited Jordan two days ago.

Mr. Olmert and Mr. Barak heard requests from Jordanian King Abdullah to refrain from attacking Gaza.

More than 60 percent of Jordan’s residents are Palestinians. King Abdullah’s fear is that if the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) should enter Gaza, they would destabilize his rule and set the kingdom on fire.

Despite King Abdullah’s urging, Mr. Olmert and Mr. Barak told the Israeli media that they explained that if the Hamas regime in Gaza continued to fire rockets at Israeli communities, Israel would no longer be able to restrain itself and would be forced to stage a large-scale operation.

After two rockets fell south of Ashkelon, the city’s residents decided to launch a series of protest activities. The residents fear that from now on, they will be the ones who will pay the price of the escalation, and their lives will become a nightmare, as happened in Sderot and its surroundings.

As a first step in the protest, the entrance to the Ashkelon junction was blocked for a few hours starting at 4:00 p.m.

However, Palestinians stepped up their activity in the south, and fired more rockets and mortar shells at the area of the Eshkol Regional Council.

This is a much larger area, with a relatively low population density, from Beeri in the north to Kerem Shalom in the south. In the past 10 days, some 50 Kassam rockets and 20 mortar shells have fallen within the council’s boundaries. In addition to the fear of IDF operations in the northern Gaza Strip, it would appear that the Palestinians’ goal is to enlarge the targeted area, where civilians are not fortified.

David Bedein can be reached at dbedein@israelbehindthenews.com.

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.

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