If Hamas chooses to embark on a path of terror, it will find itself under an unprecedented Israeli attack, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz warned on Saturday.
"Any leader of a terror organization who chooses to attack Israel will not be immune," he declared. Israel will not permit the reality of 2001-2 to return, said Mofaz, referring to the wave of suicide bus bombings orchestrated by Hamas that rocked the nation's major cities.
In an interview on Channel 2's Meet the Press, Mofaz said Israel's policy remained clear. "We will not speak with Hamas; we do not speak to terrorists," he said. At the same time, Israel intends to pursue the road map.
Israel had no intention of allowing Hamas officials freedom of movement between the West Bank and Gaza, irregardless of their status or position, said Mofaz.
"Hamas is a terror organization which refuses to recognize the State of Israel," a security official said. The official noted that even under the former PA government there were certain Fatah officials who were refused VIP status and freedom of movement between Gaza and the West Bank.
A security source said that while arrests of Hamas operatives would continue, the army was ordered by Mofaz to consult with the political echelon on sensitive issues related to the Hamas. "The political echelon will be more involved now than it was in the past," the source said. "We will have to use more judgment now than before."
Maj-Gen. (Res.) Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's political and security division, expressed similar sentiments to those of Mofaz. "Israel does not need to authorize passage for someone who represents an organization of murder and terror that preaches our destruction. Show me one country in the world who would allow this," Gilad declared on Israel Radio when asked whether Israel intends to restrict the movement of Hamas leaders.
Mofaz also lashed out at media reports that criticized the failure of Israel's intelligence establishment to predict the outcome of the PA elections and Hamas's triumph. Israel is considered to have one of the best intelligence apparatus in the world, whether the IDF or Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), Mofaz said.
In the months leading up to the PA elections, Israeli intelligence organizations accurately identified the strengthening of Hamas, but no one could have predicted, not even the Palestinians themselves, the exact numbers and election results, he said.
Another cause for concern was the growing power of the extreme Islamic groups and the terror axis that was spreading from Iran via Syria and infiltrating the Palestinian-controlled areas, said Mofaz. Not only Israel but the United States and Europe were aware of this worrying trend, he added.
Currently Israel was monitoring the situation in the Palestinian-controlled areas, but the army and the entire security establishment were prepared to deal with all scenarios or outcomes, the defense minister declared.
Meanwhile on Saturday night, two Kassam rockets were fired at the western Negev. According to the army, the rockets were fired north of Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza and landed in an open area west of Netiv Ha'asara. No one was wounded and no damage reported.
A Palestinian was shot and wounded by soldiers after he attempted to cross the northern Gaza security fence into Israel. Soldiers feared he might be carrying a bomb or was armed, and called out to him to halt. When their calls went unheeded they fired warning shots in the air, but the suspect continued heading for the fence. One of the soldiers then opened fire, aiming for the Palestinian's legs. The Palestinian was wounded and taken to an Israeli hospital and later handed over to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) for questioning.
On Friday, two mortar shells were fired at Israel, with one landing on an IDF base near the northern Gaza security fence and another nearby. No one was wounded in the attack.
On the Trans-Samaria Highway near the Oranit checkpoint in the West Bank, a soldier was lightly wounded Saturday night when a car stopped for inspection reversed into a group of soldiers.
before fleeing towards an exit route into Israel. The impact of the blow received by the soldier caused the car's sideview mirror to break. The soldier was taken to the hospital, and the army alerted the police, who set up checkpoints in the area to stop the car and arrest the passengers.
At the Hawara checkpoint south of Nablus, two Palestinian teenagers were arrested Friday night and handed over to the Shin Bet for questioning after they were found to be carrying three pipe bombs and a homemade hand gun. The teenagers told security officials that they had intended to smuggle the weapons through the checkpoint and hand them over to someone on the other side.