Jerusalem – The Purim holiday coincides this year with the end of the 40-day Islamic mourning period for Imad Mughniyeh, the Hezbollah commander who was assassinated in Damascus last month. This has led the Israeli security establishment to raise the state of alert both within Israel and around the world. In Israel, the police are deploying in large numbers in order to guard crowded locations and public celebrations, while security has also been increased around Israeli diplomatic missions and Jewish communities abroad.
Israel has not taken responsibility for the assassination of Mr. Mughniyeh but assumes that Hezbollah and Iran will consider Israel responsible for his death and will seek revenge. “The Purim holiday is a troublesome time. In the past, terror attacks have already been staged on the holiday, and it should be remembered that it is easy for terrorists to carry out an attack on such a day. They can camouflage themselves easily and enter crowded areas without arousing suspicion,” said a police source.
In joint activity by the IDF, Israeli intelligence and the Israel Civil Administration, an Israeli truck was seized on Wednesday afternoon at the trans-Samaria crossing near Oranit bearing about three tons of potassium nitrate, a type of potassium that serves as raw material for manufacturing bombs.
This is the 15th attempt known to the security forces to smuggle chemicals of this type into Judea and Samaria in the past month.
In the past few days, discussions have been held by the Central Command for coordinating the activity against attempts to bring in hazardous materials to Judea and Samaria. The discussions were attended by representatives of the Civil Administration, the Samaria and Judea District Police and the Crossings and Customs Administration.
The security forces imposed a closure on Judea and Samaria on Wednesday.
IDF Takes Over Gaza Strip
Over the past few days, the IDF completed a large-scale exercise simulating a takeover of Gaza. The exercise was one of the largest held in recent years.
The exercise was meant to simulate a large-scale ground operation in the Gaza Strip. Taking part were commanders from all the combat units in the regular and reserve army designated to execute a takeover of the Gaza Strip if such an operation is decided on.
Israeli military sources said that in the course of the exercise, “the army’s fear that a ground operation in Gaza would lose international legitimacy and would be stopped because of international pressure on Israel was given expression.” They said that because of this concern, one of the goals given the Southern Command was to attain achievements quickly and in tandem to act to prevent a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. Therefore, during the “combat,” dozens of trucks with food were brought into the Gaza Strip even during the course of the fierce battles.
The exercise began with a scenario simulating heavy Kassam rocket fire on the Gaza periphery communities and on Sderot and Grad rocket fire at Ashkelon. The Kassam rockets and the Grad rockets, according to the scenario, caused casualties and forced the army to embark on an operation meant to reduce the fire.
Most of the details of the exercise are classified, but from what can be released it is learned that two offensive moves were practiced, during which dozens of clashes occurred that included anti-tank rocket fire, car bombs and explosive charges.
In the course of the exercise, the IDF took heavy losses. The number of “casualties” was determined beforehand, not on the basis of operations research.
For the first time in exercises of this sort, not only the number of killed was reported but names of the dead soldiers were also invented to create a sense of realism. According to the exercise, in the course of the fighting, the rocket fire at Israel continued but was gradually reduced as the fighting progressed.
Great emphasis was also put on keeping information secret. The officers who took part in the exercise had to put away their cell phones and maintain secrecy.
The exercise, which took place in a number of places, was overseen by Israeli Army Southern Command Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, with Gaza Division Commander Brig. Gen. Moshe (Chico) Tamir under him.
On Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak went to view the exercise together with Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. During the week, almost all the generals of the IDF general staff watched it, as did Director of Military Intelligence Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, OC Operations Directorate Maj. Gen. Tal Russo and others.
Israeli Sources: Swiss ‘Deal With The Devil’
High-ranking government sources describe the huge gas deal the Swiss government has signed with Iran as “a deal with the devil out of greed.”
The gas deal has caused a sharp diplomatic crisis between Switzerland and Israel. “When it comes to Israel’s fight against terror, they are the first to jump and demand of us an immediate response that does not hurt innocent civilians,” said senior officials in Jerusalem, “but with a country like Iran, which threatens to destroy another country, they have no problem doing business. This is an example that shows Switzerland’s hypocrisy and sanctimoniousness.”
On Monday, Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey gave her official sponsorship at the signing ceremony in a deal for Iran to provide gas to her country. According to the multi-billion euro accord, Switzerland will import 5.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Iran staring in 2012.
Unrelated to the deal with Iran, on Wednesday the Swiss ambassador to Israel, Walter Hefner, presented his credentials to President Shimon Peres. Immediately after the ceremony, the ambassador was called to the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The deputy director general for Western Europe, Rafi Barak, told the ambassador that Israel regretted the Swiss foreign minister’s trip to Iran and viewed this as an unfriendly act toward Israel.
“Iran continues with its nuclear program, helps extremist organizations, supports terror, tramples human rights and denies the right to exist of an independent state in the U.N. while displaying anti-Semitism and hatred for Israel,” Mr. Barak said. He said that Israel expected Switzerland to enlist in the international effort to prevent Iran from arming with nuclear weapons.
David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2008