Diskin: Hamas booby trapping Gaza Strip

Shin Bet chief: Group using truce to arm itself, has rockets that can reach Kiryat Gat, possibly Ashdod.

Hamas ashkelon 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Hamas ashkelon 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Hours before an east Jerusalem resident launched another terrorist attack in the heart of Jerusalem, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yuval Diskin warned the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that east Jerusalem neighborhoods on either side of the security fence were becoming havens for terrorists. "We need less manpower to make an arrest in a refugee camp in Jenin than we do to launch a similar operation in [the Jerusalem neighborhood of] Shuafat," he said. Diskin told MKs a leadership vacuum existed in those neighborhoods, and called on decision-makers to fill that vacuum. He also called on MKs to renew the policy of demolishing or sealing terrorists' homes, arguing that without such a policy, there was little to deter Jerusalem residents from carrying out attacks. "If you don't begin to do so, Jerusalem will quickly become a serious problem," he said. Diskin painted a dim picture of internal security, noting that their have been more terrorist attacks in the first half of 2008 than in either 2006 or 2007. So far, he said, 30 Israeli soldiers and civilians had been killed in terrorist attacks since the beginning of the year, whereas 13 were killed throughout all of 2007. Diskin said since the peak year of 2002, the use of suicide bombers in terrorist attacks had dramatically declined. In 2002, 53 terrorist attacks had been recorded; in 2008, there had been only one - the February bombing in Dimona. He attributed the decline to increased security operations and to the security fence. Diskin was particularly harsh in describing the situation in the Gaza Strip, arguing that he had always opposed the idea of a cease-fire with Hamas. "Gaza has maintained its position as the main producer of terrorism," he said, adding that any operations in Gaza without holding onto land afterwards would not deter terrorist attacks. Before the cease-fire, Diskin said, Hamas had been in a "very serious state, but Israel gave them a lifeline" by opening up crossings and relaxing attacks on the terrorist infrastructure. "Hamas's strengthening shouldn't be measured by steps but by entire floors," he said, adding that the current quiet on the Gaza periphery was a temporary illusion. Diskin said the cease-fire had damaged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, strengthening pre-existing internal pressure to hold talks with Hamas. Terrorist groups in Gaza, he said, have continued to increase their weapons capabilities, including smuggling Iranian-made mortars and building rockets that - according to some intelligence indications - may have a 30-kilometer radius, allowing them to reach Ashdod.