The an-Nasser Salah a-Din Brigades, announced a state of highest alert in its ranks on Saturday before a possible Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip.

Jerusalem – High-ranking officers in the Israeli army’s Southern Command said yesterday that an enemy state for all practical purposes has been born in the Gaza Strip, and the daily rocket fire from Gaza is a challenge to the state of Israel. Hamas has an infantry division in every way, with four brigades armed with anti-tank rockets and trained in defensive warfare and commando capability.

The an-Nasser Salah a-Din Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, announced a state of highest alert in its ranks on Saturday before a possible Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip. On Saturday afternoon, terrorists from the Popular Resistance Committees carried out a maneuver in Gaza City using live fire, mortar shells and automatic weapons. Dozens of the organization’s terrorists participated in the maneuver, while Hamas spokesmen threatened a harsh military response against Israel if it planned a military operation in the Gaza Strip.

A statement issued by the organization said that “Operation Messages of Death,” the name that the terrorists have given to the rocket fire upon the Zikim army base one week ago, would continue by means of rocket fire throughout Ramadan.

The Al-Kassam organization, Hamas’ military wing, is threatening to kidnap Israeli soldiers if the Israeli army carries out a raid on the Gaza Strip. In a press conference that it held last Thursday, the organization’s spokesman, Abu Obeida, said that the Al-Kassam Brigades have a defense plan for the Gaza Strip that will “amaze and confuse the Israeli army.” He refused to provide details about the plan but said that it will begin to be carried out with the first Israeli step toward Gaza. Last Saturday, the Al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad’s military wing, warned Israel against beginning an operation in the Gaza Strip, calling upon it to “think a thousand times before it does so.”

Meanwhile, Israeli ground troops operated inside the Gaza Strip during the Jewish New Year holiday.

On Thursday night, at the conclusion of the first day of the New Year festival, the Golani Infantry Brigade troops, with assistance from the armored corps and the engineering corps, entered Gaza Strip territory in the Sufa region. The troops operated approximately two miles deep into the Gaza Strip and searched for those who were firing rockets and digging tunnels. The troops left the territory early Friday morning and returned on Friday night.

Twice over the Jewish holiday, the Israeli Defense Force attacked cars in which rocket-launching cells were traveling. On Thursday, a car in the area of the UNRWA Jabalya refugee camp was attacked. Israeli helicopter gunships fired two missiles at the vehicle, in which two terrorists from Al-Quds Brigades were traveling. Both of them escaped injury, fleeing the car before the missile struck it.

Between Wednesday and Saturday night, Arab terrorists fired more than 10 rockets and approximately 20 mortar shells into the Western Negev region of Israel. On Wednesday, the eve of the Jewish New Year, Fatah’s Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades took responsibility for shelling the Israeli city of Sderot.

The Brigades were also busy in the West Bank, mainly laying roadside bombs and carrying out shooting attacks in Samaria, including one on a car carrying an Israeli man and woman near Karnei Shomron in central Samaria. Both Israeli passengers were injured and rushed to the hospital.

Olmert In The Spotlight

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will be interrogated today for alleged fraud, breach of trust and receiving an item by fraudulent means.

Olmert is suspected of having rigged the tender for the privatization of Bank Leumi when he tried to help his close friends and financial supporters, tycoons S. Daniel Abraham from New York and Frank Lowy from Australia, to buy the bank under very favorable conditions.

The criminal investigation of Olmert comes after a year of investigations in the wake of the Israel State Comptroller report. The major witness in the case is Israel Treasury Department Chief Accountant General Yaron Zelekha, along with others who participated in the privatization of Bank Leumi. Among other things, Israeli police investigators took testimony from the governor of the Bank of Israel, Prof. Stanley Fischer. After the first stage of the investigation, senior Israeli police investigators and Israel State Prosecutor Eran Shendar reached the formal conclusion that enough evidence pointed to alleged criminal acts by the prime minister and decided to issue a summons for questioning.

The Bank Leumi affair was revealed approximately a year ago when it was discovered that in 2005, when Olmert served as the Israel finance minister, he allegedly acted criminally during the sale of one of the state’s largest assets, Bank Leumi Le-Israel. By Israeli law, a public official may not deal with or be involved with any matter in which there is a fear of conflict of interest.

Abraham, an American tycoon who owned Slimfast, donated to Olmert’s campaign for the premiership and even bought Olmert’s home in Jerusalem $2.7 million, which appeared to be an inflated amount. After the sale, he rented the house back to Olmert for a nominal sum. At that same time, Abraham’s advisers carried out financial examinations for participation in the tender for the sale of Bank Leumi.

Australian billionaire Frank Lowy is friendly with Olmert as well. He is represented in Israel by attorney Yosef Gross, who is related to the prime minister by marriage. Olmert allegedly engaged in various actions that were intended to help his two friends to buy Bank Leumi. Although Zelekha opposed these measures, Olmert did not accept his opinion, saying, “You only recommend. I decide.” In the end, neither tycoon participated in the tender.

Late last evening, Olmert’s lawyer informed the prosecution team of the Israel Ministry of Justice and the Israeli police that the prime minister would be “deeply involved in matters of state and unable to report for his scheduled interrogation on Monday.”

No comment was immediately available from the prosecution team.