|Sebastian Scheiner/Associated Press Family members of captured Israeli soldiers from left: Noam and Aviva Shalit, Shlomo and Miki Goldwasser, Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Karnit Goldwasser participate in a rally marking the anniversary of the war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas and calling for the release of the three captured soldiers Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev and Gilad Shalit, in the city of Haifa, northern Israel on Thursday.|
Jerusalem – One Israeli soldier, Givati Infantry Brigade Staff Sergeant Arbel Raich, 21, was killed and two were lightly wounded overnight Wednesday in an exchange of fire with armed Palestinians at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) el-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, as Israeli troops were dispatched to locate smuggling tunnels.
Hamas took credit for detonating two large mines, causing the Israeli casualties.
While ground troops were operating near the UNRWA camp, the Israeli air force executed a missile strike in the same area early Thursday. The Israeli army confirmed the strike, but did not provide details on the identity of the targets or their affiliation.
The IDF arrested a total of five terror suspects throughout the West Bank overnight Wednesday, all of whom were transferred to security forces for interrogation.
Heightened Vigilance Along Israel’s
One year to the date of the outbreak of war on Israel’s northern border, Israeli Defense Forces?(IDF) units along the northern border have been instructed to “increase their vigilance.”
The IDF fears that Palestinian organizations or other independent organization will try to act against Israel from within Lebanese territory. It also feared that Lebanese civilians will conduct rallies and processions along the northern border, in which they will throw stones at the soldiers.
IDF officials do not, however, believe that Hezbollah will try to carry out any overall offensive action against Israel.
Security officials in northern communities close to the border fence were also briefed in advance of the anniversary.
“We have asked the security squads to be on call and to heighten their alertness for the possibility of a security incident by Hezbollah,” a security official to Ma’ariv said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Moshe Kaplinski, who is scheduled to retire in a few weeks, said Wednesday night, “In our assessment, no war with Syria is expected this summer.”
Kaplinski added: “We can’t ignore what we see. To the best of our understanding, Syria’s actions are mainly for defensive purposes, but we are raising our state of alert.”
However, warned Kaplinski, a misunderstanding or isolated incident could lead to a confrontation.
Regarding the implementation of the lessons from the last war, the deputy chief of staff said, “A long and comprehensive process has taken place in the IDF. The goal was not to search for culprits but rather to analyze weaknesses and define a work plan for the future. Our goal was the need to prepare for the next war, which we all hope will not take place. The IDF in the year after the war is a different IDF.”
The deputy chief of staff warned further that if the IDF budget were to be cut, this would mainly damage security needs.
“Security costs money. Rectifying the flaws requires a different budget for the security establishment. We have presented this today to the security cabinet, and it shares our feeling. I hope that there will be no cutback, so that we do not damage these processes, which are so important.”
The IDF Spokesperson’s Office commented, “The Northern Command increases its vigilance and alertness on various anniversaries and commemorative dates. The state of alert in the Galilee Division has not been raised.”
Abbas: Don’t Release Hamas MPs
At a time when PLO offices around the world continue to demand that Israel release all incarcerated Palestinians, PLO Chairman Abbas’ aides have asked Prime Minister Ehud Olmert not to release the Hamas members of Parliament who are in Israel’s custody. This was reported Wednesday by the London based Arab newspaper, Asharq al-Awsat, citing Israeli sources.
The newspaper also wrote that Abbas intends to dissolve the Palestinian parliament. In addition, Abbas intends to declare the emergency government headed by Salam Fayad as a permanent government, until new general elections are held.
The declaration of the new election date will be made on Friday. This will mark exactly 30 days since the emergency government began to serve.
As part of the measures planned by Abbas, he intends to dissolve the existing parliament, in which Hamas enjoys an overwhelming majority.
Abbas intends to base his government’s majority on the PLO institutions.
Asharq al-Awsat also reported that Abbas has instructed Fayad to initiate talks with Palestinian factions that are interested in joining the government, so that it will have as broad a parliamentary basis as possible.
On Wednesday, Abbas did not succeed in convening the Palestinian Legislative Council in order to discuss the emergency government that he established in Judea and Samaria.
The meeting was postponed after the Hamas members of parliament boycotted it.
David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
The meeting was attended by 41 MPs, while 45 others were absent.Fatah faction chair Azzam el-Ahmed said that Hamas had prevented the PLC session from being convened, and locked the parliament building in Gaza by force of arms. He said that several MPs tried to enter the room, including Minister Intisar el-Wazir, but armed men from Hamas prevented them from doing so.
Deputy PLC Speaker Hassan Khraisheh said, following the cancellation of the meeting, that the Palestinian Legislative Council would convene once again next week, and if there are not enough participants then either, than it is the PA chairman’s right to enact laws and even to dissolve the parliament. He noted that in such a case, all of the parliament’s powers would be handed over to the PA chairman.
The costs of the January 2006 Palestinian elections which brought Hamas to power were paid for by grants from the European Union and the US government and overseen by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.
HAMAS DELEGATES MISSILE STRIKES TO JIHAD
The Middle East Newsline has confirmed that Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip has relayed responsibility for missile strikes on Israel to the Iranian-sponsored Islamic Jihad. Israeli military intelligence has asserted that Hamas was refraining from assuming responsibility for missile and mortar strikes on Israel. The officials said Hamas was allowing Jihad to conduct daily Kassam-class missile and mortar attacks on the Jewish state from the northern Gaza Strip.
“Hamas does not want to spark an Israeli military invasion and yet it won’t stop the missile attacks,” an official told Middle East Newsline
“That’s where Islamic Jihad comes in. They take the responsibility and get Hamas off the hook.”
Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for missile and mortar strikes on the Israeli city of Sderot. Jihad has also fired mortars at Israeli military bases along the border with the Gaza Strip.
At a July 4 briefing to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Col. Ronen Cohen, a senior military intelligence officer, said Hamas has limited operations against Israel. Cohen said Hamas wants to focus on accumulating weapons, technology and money in an effort to form a Palestinian army, now estimated at between 7,000 and 10,000 soldiers in the Gaza Strip.
Cohen, deputy chief of military intelligence’s research division, said Hamas wants to bolster its forces to ensure a strategic threat to Israel from the Gaza Strip. He said Hamas has also secretly established a chain of command of its Executive Force in the West Bank.
“As long as the Israeli military is in the [West Bank] territories, Hamas can’t reach the same military level as in Gaza,” Cohen said.
Still, Cohen said, Hamas lacks sufficient forces in the Gaza Strip. As a result, the ruling Islamic movement has been recruiting former PA officers and Fatah fighters as well as hiring professional security guards to protect the border crossings with Egypt and Israel.
Israeli security Officials assert that Hamas has been engaged in serial production of the Kassam missile as well as improvised explosive devices. They said Hamas has acquired a large arsenal of anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles seized from Fatah-aligned PA facilities in the Gaza Strip in late June.
The assessment of Israeli intelligence is that Hamas was expected to reconcile with the Fatah movement despite its defeat. They said Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who in June ordered a crackdown on the Islamic movement, has been moving toward coordination and cooperation with Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Masha’al, based in Damascus.
“They have a joint interest,” Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said.
Special to the Bulletin
Thursday, July 12, 2007
[This is reported in conjunction with the Middle East Newsline]
U.S. MAINTAINS NAVY BUILDUP IN GULF
The United States has maintained its naval buildup in the Gulf.
The U.S. Navy has ordered the return of its nuclear-powered aircraft
carrier the USS Enterprise for Gulf operations. Officials said this marked
the second deployment of the Enterprise in the Gulf in 14 months. The Enterprise, which left the Gulf in November 2006, would join the USS John C. Stennis and USS Nimitz carrier strike groups. Officials said the return of the Enterprise would enable rotation of the other two carrier strike groups in the region.
“The carrier and her escorts will assert their right to operate
throughout the region,” the navy said. “These ships can operate together as
one single strike force or dispersed to execute multiple missions
The carrier strike groups have been operating near the Iranian coast. In June, the navy conducted a major exercise in the Straits of Hormuz, the passage for 30 percent of global oil shipments.
“Regular deployments of the strike groups to the Middle East are not designed to provoke any of the Gulf countries,” the navy said.
KUWAIT CONDUCTS MAJOR MILITARY EXERCISE
Kuwait has conducted a major military exercise designed to demonstrate combat effectiveness during the brutal Gulf summers. The Kuwait Army has concluded “Scorching Heat,” a nearly week-long exercise that included a range of infantry and naval units. The exercise, which ended on July 8, combined military and security forces and was based on conventional and counter-insurgency scenarios.
Scorching Heat was the latest in a series of military exercises in 2007.
The maneuvers were attended by Defense Minister Jaber Mubarak Al Sabah, also the sheikdom’s interior minister. Officials said the exercise included amphibious assaults, naval combat operations, artillery and main battle tank fire. The maneuvers also contained an armored offensive and joint naval-army operations.
“The scenario of the exercise also involved raids of mock targets on an island with artillery and naval support fire, followed tank and armored vehicle fire,” the official Kuwait News Agency said.
In an address to commanders, Mubarak stressed the importance of military training. The defense minister urged soldiers to improve combat skills and model themselves on the top militaries in the world.
Kuwait is a major non-NATO ally of the United States, which deploys about 15,000 troops in the sheikdom. The GCC state also maintains military cooperation with Britain and France.
©The Bulletin 2007