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It was all about intelligence and hard fieldwork. The information on the suicide bomber making his way towards Tel Aviv came from Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) field officers and within minutes trickled down to the simple traffic cop manning a radar gun on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway.
But alongside successes like Tuesday's, security officials admitted Wednesday that it was almost impossible to hermetically seal off the West Bank to prevent additional infiltrations. While Tuesday's suicide attack was thwarted, the fact that the bomber succeeded in entering Israel has many in the defense establishment losing their sleep. The bombers, officials said, need to be ideally stopped in their beds at home since once inside the Green Line they have at their disposal roads like Highway 6, which cut across the country in a matter of minutes.
The IDF is stepping up its operations in the territories with an emphasis on "terror capitals" such as Jenin and Nablus - the Islamic Jihad's main stomping ground. The goal is to keep terror there to a minimum and to prevent the transfer of information related to the production of Kassam rockets to the West Bank from Gaza.
Fearing an Election Day attack, security forces are maintaining a high alert throughout the country and have beefed up patrols along the seam line with the West Bank. Funded by Iran and Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad is highly motivated to attack Israel before the elections - a period historically known for its terror attacks and their influence on the vote.
In 2002, Palestinian gunmen killed six people after they opened fire on a Likud polling station on the day Ariel Sharon defeated Binyamin Netanyahu in the party primaries. Other "election terrorism" included Netanyahu's victory over Shimon Peres in the 1996 general elections following a murderous spate of suicide bombings. Most recently Tali Hatuel and her four daughters were shot dead by Palestinians on the day of the 2004 Likud referendum on the Gaza Strip disengagement, which ended with 65% voting against the unilateral evacuation plan.
These elections are no different, and according to experts, they too are vulnerable to terrorist attacks which if perpetrated in the six days left to the vote, could strengthen the Right and weaken Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima Party.
The army however doesn't take politics into consideration and is operating with full force to prevent the next attack. But Israel, one senior IDF officer said recently, may have played a key role in the recent upsurge in violence. The use of tanks in last week's operation in Jericho was the first time armored vehicles entered the city in the last year-and-a-half. The bomber caught on his way to blow up on Tuesday was from the village of Yamoun near Jenin - the same place where a 10-year-old girl was accidentally killed this past Friday.
But with elections around the corner, the army is aware what the impact of any little mistake it makes, especially ones that involves the death of a girl on her way to get stitches taken out of her chin. For that reason, the closure imposed on the territories over Purim is still in place and the IDF is maintaining positions outside West Bank cities and invading only when necessary with the main mission of preventing and not provoking.
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