Jerusalem – While it is commonly assumed throughout Israel that the plans for an international force would only apply to Gaza, the Jordanian newspaper A-Doustour reported on Sunday that the United States plans to deploy an international force in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, in addition to Gaza, in order to “keep the peace and build the Palestinian state.” The paper said it has all the details of the American plan.
Israel Arrests Leading Hamas Members In Jerusalem
After a lengthy investigation, the Israel Police have arrested 11 senior Hamas members in Jerusalem. The purpose of their activities was to recruit support for Hamas and give the organization a foothold on the Temple Mount, in coordination with Sheikh Raad Salah’s Islamic Movement.
The Hamas members are residents of eastern Jerusalem, 10 of whom hold Israeli identity cards. The Israel State Prosecutor’s Office is seeking to try them for various offenses, including membership in a terrorist organization, financing terrorism and illegal use of property for terrorist purposes.
During the investigation, evidence was uncovered that indicated intensive Hamas activity in Jerusalem, especially the Temple Mount, financed by Hamas elements abroad. Several channels for transferring Hamas funds from abroad were discovered and 400,000 shekels was seized.
The Hamas headquarters abroad transferred funds to the “Union of Good,” which then used money changers, bank accounts in Judea and Samaria, and couriers to send the money to a local charity organization which then transferred cash to the Hamas headquarters in Jerusalem.
In the last 18 months, Hamas’ Jerusalem headquarters received over 1 million shekels in this fashion.
It should be noted that the “Union of Good” is a terrorist organization based in Saudi Arabia, which remains the main financing body through which Hamas headquarters abroad finance local Hamas activities.
The “Union of Good” also operates out of the UNRWA Palestinian refugee camps throughout Gaza.
Hamas Deploys Along Egyptian Border
The Middle East Newsline has confirmed that Hamas forces have deployed forces along the Egyptian border.
Hamas dispatched 200 Palestinian Authority troops to the southern Gaza town of Rafah along the 14-kilometer border with Egypt and the Gaza Strip. The deployment took place on Sunday and included officers of the National Security Forces, formerly aligned to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
“We have some 200 soldiers who wish to resume working and carry out our national duties,” Hamas officer Ibrahim Abu Al Heija said.
The deployment was launched amid a drive by Hamas to improve security and restore cooperation with neighboring Egypt. Egypt has refused to open the Rafah border terminal since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip on June 22.
These officers returned to work in defiance of an order by Abbas to boycott the Hamas government. Abbas has pledged to continue salaries to any officer who refuses to cooperate with the Hamas regime.
“Hamas has exerted great efforts with Egypt to reopen [the] Rafah border crossing and bring the stranded travelers to Gaza,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.
Hamas has also revived PA civilian police. Officials said most of the Fatah-aligned officers returned to work, bolstered by Hamas fighters, throughout Gaza.
U.S. Bans Syrian Officials
The United States has imposed travel sanctions on 10 Syrian and Lebanese officials.
The Bush administration has approved a ban on entry to the United States by 10 Syrian officials and Lebanese politicians. President George Bush said these Lebanese and Syrians have sought to undermine the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.
“This is a tool that the United States has to demonstrate to Syria our desire for them to stop meddling in Lebanon, to demonstrate to Syria and those who want to destabilize the democratically-elected government of Lebanon, that we will continue to increase pressure until they suspend their activity,” White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
The sanctions announced on June 29 included the brother-in-law of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Assef Shawkat was said to have directed a campaign against the Siniora government in his role as director of Syrian military intelligence.
Others on the U.S. boycott list were Hisham Ikhtiyar, an Assad adviser, and Brig. Gen. Rustom Ghazali, former head of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon. Ghazali’s deputy, Brig. Gen. Jama’a Jama’a, was also placed on the list.
Six Lebanese politicians said to be acting for the Assad regime were also on the boycott list. They consisted of five former Cabinet ministers and a former member of parliament.
Big IDF Exercise In Golan Heights
Everybody knows that when nerves are frayed, it is usually irrational decisions that are taken. This is also true when it is states that are involved – Israel and Syria – which are nervous as summer begins.
Against the backdrop of the tension between Israel and Syria, the Israel Defense Forces will soon begin a series of extensive exercises in the Golan Heights. Jerusalem has sent Damascus a message saying that it has no plan to attack the Syrians and that the maneuvers are purely defensive. The current activity is part of a program of exercises which was decided upon in the wake of the lessons learned from the Summer 2006 Lebanon War, with the aim of preventing the recurrence of a situation in which the forces were inadequately trained.
The Syrian Army too is also currently preparing intensively for a possible war, and its preparations include training and infrastructure work in the Syrian part of the Golan Heights. Syria also recently expedited its acquisition of advanced weaponry from Russia, some of it with financial help to Syria from its ally Iran. Syrian Vice President Farouk Ashara said a few days ago that “Syria is taking seriously Israel’s preparations for war between the states.” He added that, “Syria prefers peace, but is not interested in secret talks with Israel.” Ashara said Damascus had the impression that Israel, like the United States, did not want to move forward in the peace process. “Ehud Olmert is not serious in his attitude to peace. Israel will make peace with us if we compromise over the return of all our occupied land, but we will not do that,” Ashara said.
In the Israeli intelligence community, opinions are divided over whether Syria’s declarations of willingness to reach a peace treaty with Israel are in earnest. There is agreement that the Syrian preparations are mostly defensive, and there is no sign that Syria intends to attack Israel.
On the other hand, Syria will be able to change from a defensive posture to an offensive in a very short time. In Israel, there is apprehension that a gradual process of escalation could in the end lead to war, in particular if the Syrians suspect that Israel is plotting to attack them.
Officials in Jerusalem expressed apprehension about the risk that the series of training exercises which is about to begin in the Golan Heights could be interpreted by the other side as advanced preparations for an offensive in the next few months. Consequently, a series of reassuring messages has been sent to Damascus through international diplomatic channels. In the next few weeks, large regular IDF forces will be training in the north, and they will be joined by soldiers from the reserves.
David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2007