Jerusalem – After more than a month in which life in the Israeli port city of Ashkelon had returned to normal, over the weekend in the city was plagued by the screeching sound of a sirens.
On Saturday and yesterday, a total of 25 mortar shells were fired from Gaza.
Earlier on Saturday, Palestinians fired an anti-tank rocket at an IDF patrol near the border fence in the Nahal Oz area.
On Friday, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter’s bureau chief was injured by Palestinian sniper fire while the minister’s entourage was escorting a delegation from the CIC, the Canada Israel Committee, at an observation post near Kibbutz Mefalsim, which overlooks Beit Hanoun. Mr. Dichter’s bureau chief, Matti Gil, sustained moderate injuries in the hip and was taken to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon.
IDF troops that operated in the afternoon inside Palestinian territory near Kissufim in pursuit of terrorists who were spotted in the area came under mortar fire. Twelve mortar shells were fired at the troops.
Egyptians On Truck-Bomb Alert
Egyptian forces in Sinai went on the alert on Saturday around noon, after intelligence reported that three terrorists had infiltrated from Sudan. The Egyptians suspect that the three aim to carry out a terrorist attack at a tourism site.
According to the al-Arabiye Web site, large numbers of Egyptian police have deployed on the roads in Sinai, with the focus on the road leading to El-Arish on the Mediterranean coast, about 50 kilometers from the Gaza Strip. The Egyptians believe that the three terrorists are traveling in a truck packed with explosives.
Since the border fence at the Rafah crossing point was breached, hundreds of foreigners have entered the Gaza Strip to join the ranks of the terrorist organizations and to join the struggle against Israel. Many of those foreigners remain in the Gaza Strip, while those who did return to Egypt remain active.
A source at the Israeli government Counter-Terrorism Bureau noted recently that threats of terrorism from Sinai have recently become much more acute. Terrorists operating there plan to kidnap Israelis and hand them over to Hamas. The open border between the Gaza Strip and Sinai make it easy for terrorists to pass back and forth between the Gaza Strip and Sinai. According to the bureau, the threat from Sinai is a “very high concrete threat.” The high state of alert in Israel and at Israeli diplomatic missions throughout the world will continue at least until Independence Day for fear of an act of revenge for the killing of Imad Mughniyeh.
Security Increased On Israeli Planes
Security measures on planes belonging to Israeli airlines and the security measures for them during takeoff and landing abroad have been significantly increased in recent days. The number of armed security guards on some flights to certain destinations has been increased, as has the number of security personnel surrounding the plane after landing and prior to takeoff.
“The threat is very tangible, and there is no choice but to do everything possible,” said on Saturday a source connected to aviation security.
El Al, Arkia and Israir planes have had armed security guards for many years. The number of guards is determined by the security division of the GSS according to the potential level of risk in every flight route. At times, the number of security guards changes from one day to the next according to updated intelligence.
Other security measures, mostly covert, are taken on planes belonging to Israeli airlines. Since the terror attacks in the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, all airlines have been required to install bulletproof doors in cockpits. In El Al, Arkia and Israir, cockpits were locked long before this decision, but doors conforming to the new standard were installed in all Israeli planes.
Along with the security on the planes, the state of alert of local security forces was greatly increased in many airports where El Al planes land. It has been reported that due to specific warnings, special security measures have been taken in several airports in Europe and the Far East, including sending helicopters to accompany the Israeli planes during landing and takeoff.
“We usually convey the intelligence, and the authorities respond accordingly. We are fully coordinated with the authorities in every country, and enjoy full cooperation,” said a source connected to aviation security.
In light of these concerns, several businessmen have recently changed their flight plans for destinations defined as problematic.
“I was supposed to fly to Cyprus in order to meet with my partner. I asked him to come to Athens instead. There is no need to tempt fate,” said an Israeli businessman Saturday night.
About a month ago, the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot reported that there was growing fear of an attempt to take over a passenger plane in the last stage of its flight to Ben-Gurion Airport for the purpose of carrying out a terror attack. Foreign airlines have received instructions to turn on the signs requiring passengers to take their seats and fasten their seatbelts about 250 kilometers before the Israeli coastline.
“Someone is very worried about something,” summed up a source in the aviation industry.
‘I Will Travel To Lebanon Any Time I Decide’
Last week, an Arab member of Israel’s Knesset Parliament, MK Ahmed Tibi, a former advisor to PLO terror leader Yasser Arafat, landed at Beirut International Airport and stayed there for approximately two hours. This was Mr. Tibi’s third visit to Lebanon, which is defined in Israeli law as an enemy country.
The chairman of the Arab Movement for Renewal party arrived in Beirut on his way to Yemen, also at war with Israel, where he stayed last week and had meetings with high-ranking officials of the Yemeni government, including Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Mr. Tibi, who arrived in Beirut accompanied by three Arab Israeli reporters, stayed in the local airport for approximately two hours before continuing on to Amman, Jordan. It is still unknown whether Mr. Tibi met with Lebanese officials during his visit.
Three years ago, Mr. Tibi visited Lebanon in order to console the relatives of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated. In June 2005, after his visit, Attorney General Meni Mazuz decided to begin a criminal investigation against him, which is still pending.
A Declaration Of Principles Of Peace By The Summer
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert intends to draft by summer a joint declaration of principles that will establish a framework for a permanent status arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians. The declaration of principles will address the “usual land mines” that derailed the previous agreements. However, those issues will be addressed only in principle. Jerusalem will be divided according to the demography of its neighborhoods; the borders will conform to the route of the separation fence; the issue of the refugees will be solved in keeping with the idea of the entire agreement: two states for two peoples.
In May, U.S. President George Bush is expected to visit Israel, whereupon he will be apprised of the progress that the two parties have made in their talks. Two months later, unless a dramatic change occurs, the declaration of principles is expected to be presented.
With respect to the borders, Mr. Olmert has asked to include the settlement blocs (mainly the Jerusalem suburbs and the Etzion Bloc, on the one hand, and Ariel in Samaria, on the other), as they are, based on the route of the separation fence. In return, Israel will give the Palestinians other land that lies inside the Green Line.
With respect to the refugees, the declaration of principles will state that the problem will be mainly solved by means of the establishment of two states for two peoples. In addition, international aid will be required, as will aid by the two parties themselves. Israel is weighing positively the possibility of acquiescing to the Palestinians’ demand to permit the entry of a limited and small number of refugees into Israel on “humanitarian grounds.”
With respect to Jerusalem, the Palestinians have insisted that in any agreement the city remain an “open city.” The declaration of principles is expected to declare that the Jewish neighborhoods will be under Israeli sovereignty and the Arab neighborhoods will be under Palestinian sovereignty. The crucial debate over the Temple Mount and the other holy places in the holy basin will be put off until a later date.
The issue of Arab neighborhoods being under Arab sovereignty will mean that Arab armed forces, hostile to Jews, will be deployed in the heart of Jerusalem, since Jewish and Arab neighborhoods are intertwined with one another. Mr. Olmert is taking into account the likelihood that the twelve members of the Shas Sephardic religious party will quit the coalition after the declaration of principles, which would push Mr. Olmert to reach out to the five members of the leftwing Meretz party and the 10 members of the three Israeli Arab political parties to replace them in the coalition.
David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2008