Jerusalem – On Wednesday, Member of Knesset Yitzhak Levy, an Orthodox Rabbi from the Israel National Union party, whose daughter was murdered in a terror attack seven years ago made a surprising declaration: “I am prepared for the murderers of my daughter to be released in order to bring Gilad Shalit home,” said Levy.
Levy sent a letter to Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in which he made the request that, should the prisoner exchange deal in the end be implemented, the released terrorists should be expelled from Israel, so that they don’t come back and attack Israel again.
This way, Levy said that he would not oppose the release of prisoners with blood on their hands, including even those responsible for the murder of his daughter. “I have no opposition to their release in accordance with the conditions that I am proposing, that they be expelled from Israel,” he wrote. “Bringing Gilad Shalit home is more important that any prisoner sitting in prison.”
Levy’s statements moved Gilad’s father, Noam Shalit, who spoke with him on the phone and thanked him warmly. “I greatly appreciate your statements; I heard them and was very moved. It is very courageous of you,” said the father of the kidnapped soldier.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Knesset Parliament discussed a series of proposals on the agenda on the anniversary of Shalit’s kidnapping.
The Israeli government minister, Yaakov Edri, who represented the government at the Knesset plenum, provided details about the negotiations being conducted. He said that as of the end of April, an agreement had been reached about the release of 450 prisoners, and that the focus of the dispute today is the identity of the people who would be released. He also said that despite the physical break caused by the events in Gaza, the talks are continuing by means of high level Egyptian officials.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, the Israeli cabinet will discuss another proposal to transfer three Jordanian convicts prisoners serving life terms to serve out their sentences in their own country. The three were convicted of two separate murders in 1990, of Staff Sgt. Pinhas Levy and Capt. Yehuda Lifschitz.
The Jordanian prisoners would be transferred to Jordan as a gesture to Jordanian King Abdullah and as part of the international custom of transferring prisoners to serve their sentences in their own countries.
The hitch is that there is no extradition agreement between Jordan and Israel, and a future Jordanian government could legally set these killers free, despite their convictions for murder.
Twelve Palestinians Killed By Israeli Forces
Israel Defense Forces operated on Wednesday in two places deep inside the Gaza Strip, in the largest operation staged in the Gaza Strip for the past six months. In that operation, 12 Palestinians were killed, while Palestinian sources say that the fatalities also included a child. Two IDF soldiers were lightly injured in the warfare.
The purpose of the operation was to target Palestinian armed men and engage them in warfare against the IDF, in an attempt to divert them from firing rockets into Israeli communities and to prevent them from fortifying outposts and operating near the border fence. IDF sources stated with satisfaction that the level of friction in the operation was high, and that dozens of armed Palestinians were hit. Another goal of the operation was to collect intelligence for the purpose of locating tunnels being dug near the border fence.
The activity started in the night hours, when forces equivalent to two battalions raided the Sajaiya neighborhood in the northern Gaza Strip and the southern outskirts of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip.
The forces consisted mainly of the reconnaissance battalion and the Tzabar battalion of the crack Givati Brigade, accompanied by armored forces and engineering forces that operated armored D9 bulldozers.
The forces were deployed at first secretly in houses and destinations located a short distance inside the Gaza Strip, and later the heavy armored forces also joined the activity.
The forces encountered hundreds of armed Palestinians, mainly from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and soldiers from Givati who participated in the combat say that there were strong displays of resistance, which continued throughout the activity. “They fired at us a great deal with everything at their disposal – light arms, explosive charges and RPGs,” said one of the soldiers, “but we were in our armored vehicles, and despite the fact that it was rather frightening, it can be said that our forces were fairly safe.”
In the operation, Israeli forces killed the head of missile development of the Iranian-sponsored Islamic Jihad. An Israel Air Force aircraft fired an air-to-ground missile that killed Raid Farouna in Gaza City. Farouna was identified as the director of Jihad’s missile program. Farouna was said to have been an engineer who modified the Kassam-class, short-range missile. He extended the range of the Kassam-3 missile to about 16 kilometers, capable of reaching the Israeli city of Ashkelon from the Gaza Strip.
The force that operated in the northern Gaza Strip left Sajaiya in the early evening hours, while the second operation lasted into the evening.
Following the large number of fatalities, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas sharply condemned the operation. “This aggression arrived one day after the Sharm el-Sheikh summit, and raises doubts as to the true desire of Olmert’s government to stabilize the calm,” said a statement issued by Abbas’ bureau. The chairman called upon the international community to intervene in order to “immediately put a stop to the Israeli crimes.”
Sources in the IDF and in the Defense Minister’s Bureau added that there is no change in policy on the Gaza Strip since the new defense minister, Ehud Barak, assumed office. IDF sources said that this is the same security policy, but this time, instead of staging one operation, as was the case last week, the forces carried out two parallel operations.
CIA Launches Info War Against Iran, Syria
The Middle East Newsline has learned that the U.S. intelligence community has been authorized to conduct a psychological war against Iran and Syria.
Officials said the Bush administration has approved a psychological warfare campaign against Iran, Hezbollah and Syria. They said the campaign was meant to undermine these Middle East regimes and bolster opposition groups.
“The campaign of France and the United States has been particularly aimed against Syria and Hezbollah,” an official said. “There are separate programs for Iran.”
The U.S. television network ABC reported that President George Bush authorized the CIA to conduct “non-lethal” covert operations against Iran. ABC said two previous orders by Bush had sought to achieve U.S. cooperation with France in psychological operations against Teheran.
“The CIA does not, as a matter of course, publicly discuss allegations of covert action, whether the assertions are wrong, right or somewhere in-between,” CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said. “That’s one reason why the term ‘covert action’ still exists.”