Jerusalem – Throughout the day yesterday, IDF ground troops, with the assistance of the Israeli Air Force and in coordination with the Israeli intelligence, carried out more operations against terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
During the activity in the northern Gaza Strip that began on Monday night, the IDF carried out two aerial attacks and hit four armed terrorists, two of whom were killed. During the operation, IDF forces discovered and destroyed three Kassam rocket launchers.
At the same time, the IDF conducted an operation against terror bases in the southern Gaza Strip. In separate incidents there, IDF forces were confronted by armed terrorists in which anti-tank rockets were fired at the forces. The IDF responded with ground and aerial fire.
In one of the instances, an IDF tank was hit by an anti-tank rocket that caused light injuries to four of the soldiers. The forces responded and killed three of the armed terrorists.
Mullen Receives Special Briefing
On IAF’s Recent Operations
Israel Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Eliezer Shkedi on Monday demonstrated to U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen the IAF’s offensive capabilities and informed him in great detail about the most recent IAF operations. Adm. Mullen showed a great deal of interest.
The visit by Adm. Mullen, which has been cast as “historic,” was deemed a success. The two shared extensive information with one another, mainly intelligence material, particularly about Iran. The Israelis presented Adm. Mullen with the information currently in Israel’s possession with respect to the Iranian nuclear program. The parties also discussed the use of a multi-layered defense against rockets and missiles.
Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi reviewed with Adm. Mullen the results of the investigations that were conducted about the Second Lebanon War and the various processes of change and improvement that the IDF has undergone in the course of the past year. Adm. Mullen told his host that he viewed the IDF as a close and important ally.
Olmert Aides: ‘American Report Hasn’t Changed
“We haven’t got a single piece of information that might contradict the Israeli assumption that Iran is continuing with its effort to develop nuclear weapons at full pace,” said senior officials close to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last night.
The American-based assessment that Iran stopped developing nuclear weapons in 2003 is still reverberating in the political-security corridors in Israel. Officials close to Mr. Olmert said that “the American report hasn’t changed in the least the fundamental premise of Israeli policy, which is geared to thwart and to stymie the Iranian effort by diplomatic means and by means of military planning that will damage, when the time arrives, the Iranian nuclear installations. Even if we succeed in delaying the development of Iran’s nuclear weapons by a few years, we will thereby ensure that the nuclear option is off the table, if there is a regime change in Iran, for example.”
Mr. Olmert, who was in the United States a few weeks ago to attend the Annapolis conference, left for the U.S. with the assumption that he was about to hold one of his most important meetings with President George W. Bush.
But in the one-on-one meeting in the White House, the president said there would be differences in the approaches taken by Israel and the United States as to the date at which the Iranians would have the capacity to manufacture nuclear weapons. Mr. Bush offered Mr. Olmert no hint about the consensus among the 16 American intelligence agencies that Iran had actually suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003.
Now Israeli officials realize how difficult it would be to enlist the U.S. in the course of President Bush’s last year in office to grant Israel a security umbrella if it decides to attack Iran’s nuclear installations on its own.
Israeli officials, therefore, are continuing to monitor the Iranian activity. Moreover, Mr. Olmert has instructed the intelligence community to share with their American counterparts all information that is gathered on the assumption that if the Iranian efforts are successful, this will be an existential threat to the state of Israel.
Officials in the Israeli political establishment have been careful not to criticize the authors of the American report publicly. But in private conversations, the Israelis who are privy to the secrets of the Iranian nuclear program say that the American report suffers from what they describe as the “post-trauma of an intelligence that failed to predict the terror attack on the Twin Towers in New York and then was deceived by Iraqi expatriates who dragged the Bush administration into the failed war in Iraq.”
There are no differences, say Israeli officials, between Israel and the Americans on two issues: The Iranians are continuing to develop long-range missiles and, in tandem, they are continuing to enrich uranium. “And let’s suppose that we’re off by half a year in our assessment,” said one high-ranking official close to Mr. Olmert. “Our premise with respect to the danger posed by Iran to the region, and specifically to Israel, is grave and obliges us to prepare accordingly.”
©The Bulletin 2007