Analysis: Violent reaction to IDF operation not expected to last

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March 15, 2006 05:14
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Security officials doubt that the successful operation in Jericho will spark a widespread wave of violence. They estimate that the sparks of unrest in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the abduction of foreigners that occurred on Tuesday will abate soon. At the same time, the internal situation in the Palestinian Authority areas might trigger extreme Fatah groups to escalate violence, as they were the only party who could gain from such a situation, officials said. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's willingness to enter a coalition with the new Hamas government has provoked many in the Fatah ranks. "Abbas had no choice, as he received little support from his Fatah buddies in the past year. He promised to command and unite the PA security forces - one army one weapon - but was unable to carry it out," one official said. Other officials could not rule out the possibility that the Aksa Martyrs Brigades in the West Bank might embark on a spate of attacks to force the IDF to respond, even before the new PA government was formed. "They may try to heat up the situation to the point that the army will be required to respond and possibly reoccupy West Bank towns," one official said. Despite its election victory, Hamas never stopped its involvement in terror and, while refraining publicly from claiming responsibility for a number of attacks carried out in recent months, had continued to be involved behind the scenes, especially in preparing for the day after, officials said. While the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine vowed to avenge the arrests of its members, Hamas leaders remained strangely silent, security officials noted. "They are caught in a trap, as they cannot publicly call for attacks on Israel while they are in the midst of forming a new government," one official said. It was a question of who would gain the most by heating up the situation, officials said. Islamic Jihad had not stopped attacks, regardless of the situation. But it was Fatah and the Aksa Martyrs Brigades who had the most to gain. "They are the largest terror group, and while not the most disciplined, have the largest stockpile of weapons and ammunition at their disposal," an official said. Security and defense officials estimate that while yesterday's events might spark clashes and disturbances against security forces in the West Bank, with a possible upsurge in firebomb and stone-throwing attacks on vehicles and stabbings of soldiers and civilians, they doubt there will be subjected to a spate of bombings in response. "Large-scale bombings inside Israel require time to plan. Bombs need to be prepared, a potential suicide bomber recruited and others to assist in smuggling the bomber into Israel after a location for the attack is found," an official said. The officials did not rule out the possibility that terror organizations in Gaza would increase Kassam rocket attacks in the near future. Indeed, shortly after the operation in Jericho was concluded, a Kassam rocket was fired at the western Negev. For a number of months, the security establishment has registered an average of 50 terror threats a day, and IDF units and other security forces have operated around the clock in the West Bank to nab those planning attacks. On Monday night, security forces in Nablus uncovered a home-made mortar launcher and flare. Two weeks ago, security forces caught two youths wearing explosive belts at a checkpoint outside Nablus. Only time will tell if Israel will be confronted with a third intifada, possibly orchestrated by Fatah elements, or an exhausting wave of sporadic attacks against security forces and civilians on West Bank roads and at checkpoints.

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