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(photo credit: AP [file])
If moderate elements in the Palestinian Authority don't get stronger, the IDF must prepare for a large-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip, said Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin to the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday.
"If all fails and it becomes impossible to strengthen Fatah, Israel needs to prepare for a military option in Gaza. The situation in the strip is not a flashing traffic light but a red, red, red, light," said Diskin. "Israel has no good options in Gaza, there are only bad options and we need to choose the least bad of all."
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One of those might be Muhammad Shabir, the US-educated university professor who was nominated by Fatah and Hamas to become the PA's next prime minister. Diskin said he was encouraged that there was no evidence connecting Shabir to terrorist activity, despite his close connections with Hamas.
Diskin emphasized that the radical Popular Resistance Committee (PRC) posed a greater danger to Israel than Hamas because the PRC membership contained more extreme religious fundamentalists. He added that Hamas had recently seen a decline in popularity due to difficulty in fulfilling their election promises.
Echoing the words of Defense Minister Amir Peretz and IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Dan Halutz, who have also appeared at the committee in recent weeks, Diskin described the network of tunnels that is being used for smuggling around Israel's borders with Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
Since disengagement, more than 33 tons of military-grade explosives, a large quantities of arms and between $50 million-$70 million in cash have been smuggled into Gaza, Diskin said. He added that the smuggling is only becoming worse; in the month of October alone, 14 tons of explosives were smuggled into Gaza.
"Although the number of terror attacks this year following disengagement is smaller, the important thing to look at is the amount of weapons and the significant strengthening of Hamas as a result of disengagement," he said.
Committee members and Likud MKs Yuval Steinitz and Limor Livnat both urged more action by the IDF.
"Egypt has a deliberate policy of supporting terror groups in Gaza by arming them. What Syria did with Hizbullah in the North, Egypt is doing with terror groups in the South," said Steinitz.
As on previous occasions, Steinitz urged a large-scale operation to retake the Philadelphi Route, located on the border between Gaza and Egypt.
Livnat attacked Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for letting the situation in Gaza become so dire.