Jerusalem – On Sunday, the Israeli Air Force struck three terrorists in the Gaza Strip. One of the three was a senior commander of Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades who was believed to be involved in the rocket fire on Sderot.

The three were killed when a missile struck their car. The site of the attack was in close proximity to the home of Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, which is located in the UNRWA Shati refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. A fourth terrorist who was in the car sustained serious injuries.

The airstrike was one more in a series of killings that have targeted terrorists who are believed to play a central role in rocket fire on Israel. High-ranking Israeli Defense Forces officers underscored on Sunday the air strike was aimed at the terrorists, all of whom had blood on their hands, and not at Mr. Haniyeh. The airstrike was carried out after Moshav Netiv Haasara was shelled in the afternoon. Eight shells were fired at the moshav, which lies north of the Gaza Strip. One of the shells landed between two residential homes and caused damage to doors and a number of windowpanes. The other shells fell near the wall that separates Israel from the Gaza Strip. The shells landed on the Israeli side of the border.

The IDF claimed that the attack killed Nidal Amudi, a senior activist in Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades who was involved in rocket fire at Israel, and Mahed Nabhuh, a Popular Resistance Committees activist who was involved in acts of terrorism against Israel.

The attack near Mr. Haniyeh’s home comes on the heels of a report by the Palestinian Authority daily newspaper Al-Hayat indicating Israel intended to kill the senior Hamas leadership, Khaled Mashal, Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud a-Zahar.

According to that report, Israel delayed the activation of its “assassination plan” until after U.S. President George Bush left the region this week. Al-Hayat also reported that Hamas security forces successfully foiled an attempt on Ismail Haniyeh’s life by means of a powerful bomb.

1,000 Terrorists Killed In Two Years

Israel’s General Security Service director Yuval Diskin said on Sunday that in the past two years the IDF had killed approximately 1,000 terrorists, 810 of whom belonged to well-known terror organizations. In a security review to the cabinet, Mr. Diskin reported that in 2007 the security forces had killed 454 terrorists. As to the number of Israelis who were killed in 2007 – only 13 Israelis, both civilians and soldiers, were killed, which is the lowest number in years.

Israeli Public Security Minister Dichter said: “According to previous reports by the GSS director, there are some 20,000terrorists in the Gaza Strip. As such, the IDF and GSS have struck five percent of them.” He said he believed that a substantially larger number of terrorists had been injured and effectively removed from the pool of terrorist activists.

Jerusalem Placed On Negotiating Table

The Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams met yesterday to hold their first talks on the core issues of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

The Israeli team is headed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and the Palestinian team is headed by the former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Abu Ala. The parties agreed one team would focus on the core issues: Jerusalem, borders and the right of return. Other teams are to focus on economic and civic issues.

In recent weeks, in the aftermath of the Annapolis conference, the parties have met, as have Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

The talks between the parties will be held against the backdrop of two impending clashes Mr. Olmert faces with his coalition partner, Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman, who has threatened to leave the government coalition if core issues are indeed discussed.

Indeed, the Israeli government coalition members are increasingly concerned that Yisrael Beiteinu’s resignation could lead to the government being toppled.

The prevailing belief in the political establishment in the past few days seemed to be coalition members who opposed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would support a bill to dissolve the Knesset or pass a no-confidence motion against the government when these are raised for a vote after the Winograd Lebanon War Investigation Committee report is released on Jan. 30.

The Yisrael Beiteinu secretariat will convene today to decide whether to resign from the government. Despite the fact that Mr. Lieberman is considered an unpredictable politician, the prevailing belief among his party’s members is that the faction will soon resign from the government.

If Mr. Lieberman acts on his threat to resign, the coalition will then number 67 members of the 120 member Israeli Knesset parliament.

It would then be enough for eight Kadima members of the Knesset to vote against the government on a bill to hold early elections, in order for the government to fall

“If the Winograd Committee report is very critical, but the Labor Party does not resign and no other significant move to topple the government takes place, I do not rule out the possibility of trying to hold early elections,” said one. Another coalition MK said: “I prefer that Olmert be deposed. If this does not happen, we must topple the government.”

U.S., Israel To Discuss Sanctions Against Iran

Israel and the United States will again coordinate their joint policy with respect to the Iranian threat and will discuss possible ways of stepping up the sanctions against Iran.

At the end of January a meeting between and Israeli and an American team will be held. This is to be the first such meeting in the wake of the publication of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, which established that the Iranians had stopped their military nuclear program. This assessment elicited awkward embarrassment in Israel and produced disagreements between the Israeli espionage agencies and their American counterparts. With that having been said, Israeli officials said they believed the impact of the National Intelligence Estimate had begun to diminish in light of evidence that demonstrated that Iran was advancing in its uranium enrichment program as well as the positions maintained by various Western European espionage agencies, whose assessments are closer to those maintained by Israel.

Israeli officials believe that the diminished impact of the National Intelligence Estimate will manifest itself in the course of the renewed dialogue over the Iranian threat. Furthermore, Israeli officials said they believed that the parties would seek additional ways of imposing economic sanctions on Iran.

The Israeli delegation is to be headed by Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz, a former Israeli Defense Minister.

The American team will be headed by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns, who has been appointed by the State Department to handle the Iranian crisis. Last year the teams met three times to discuss the Iranian nuclear program. The next meeting is extraordinarily important since it will dictate a coordinated policy that is to be adopted by the two countries against the Iranian threat in the aftermath of the surprising National Intelligence Estimate.

David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com

©The Bulletin 2008

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.