Halutz says targeted hits to continue

Chief of staff: 'The [assassination] policy has proven its own success.'

Israel will continue with the "extremely effective" policy of targeted terrorist killings, IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant Dan Halutz said Tuesday at a meeting of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting. "The policy has proven its own success," he said, adding that currently the IDF was focusing on Islamic Jihad. "They [Islamic Jihad] are the ones that are doing the firing at the moment, Hamas has stopped." In 2005, there were 37 "targeted assassinations," said Halutz, who stressed that those operations contributed to the decrease in terror activity. His remarks came amid two cases that had been brought to the High Court regarding the IDF's practice of targeted killing. The Public Committee against Torture has brought a suit against the IDF over the use of targeted killings since 2000. In addition, the Yesh Gvul organization had demanded a criminal investigation be launched against Halutz for ordering the killing of Hamas member Saleh Shehade in Gaza in July 2004. Halutz also told the committee that terrorist had smuggled as many as 10 shoulder-launched missiles into Gaza since 2004. He added, however, that there had been a greater threat to civilian air traffic outside of Israel than within. "We have certain technology against these things here in Israel," said Halutz, although he declined to specify. After the meeting, MK Ran Cohen (Meretz) demanded that Halutz stop the use of artillery in populated areas, due to the risk of injuring innocent civilians. Regarding the presence of Al Qaida in Gaza, an IDF official said that the army had discovered that Al Qaida pamphlets were being distributed by a single man in Rafiah who claimed to be an affiliate. The IDF, however, had found no ties between him and that organization. During the meeting, the IDF official also told the committee that, in the past two months, 11 Israelis had been killed by terror activity. Ten of those were civilian and one was a soldier, he said. Meanwhile, 40 Palestinians had been killed. Twenty-nine of those were listed as terrorists by the IDF, while 11 were civilians. He added that 1,172 Palestinians had been detained, and more than 300 remained "in checks." The raids to arrest wanted fugitives continue. The clampdown on the West Bank and Gaza Strip - preventing Palestinians from entering Israel following the October 26 Hadera suicide bomb attack in which six Israelis were killed - remains in effect. Since the bombing, the army has isolated northern Samaria from the rest of the West Bank, and focused its operations against Islamic Jihad in specific areas. On Tuesday, 45 threats of terrorist attacks were recorded by the security establishment. Sources in the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) said that, despite the hundreds of fugitives, affiliated mainly with the Islamic Jihad, arrested after the Hadera bombing, security forces had yet to nab all members involved in planning the attack. While there had been a noticeable decrease in the scope of violence, terrorists in the West Bank had intensified their efforts to launch attacks, the sources said. "One should not be deceived by the so-called calm. Underneath, the ground is boiling," a security official said. Before dawn on Tuesday, security forces arrested 21 Palestinian fugitives affiliated with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah in raids in Nablus, Kabatiyah (south of Jenin), Hebron, Ramallah, and the Bethlehem area. On Tuesday night, soldiers shot and wounded three Palestinians preparing to place a bomb on the ascent to Mount Ebal, near Nablus. According to the army, soldiers manning a surveillance point spotted four Palestinians whom they suspected were attempting to place a bomb on the road used by troops. Soldiers opened fire and acknowledged hitting three. One later died of his wounds, Palestinian sources said. The youth was later identified as Muhammad Abu Salha, aged 16. A 10-year-old boy also sustained moderate chest wounds. The IDF contend that the four Palestinians were carrying a bomb, but they would only be able to search the area after daybreak. In the morning, an officer was lightly wounded from a bomb detonated near a jeep in Nablus. Soldiers returned fire and two of the shooters were hit. In Jenin overnight, security forces shut down the dawah, or charity offices affiliated, with Islamic Jihad. The army claimed the charity offices were using donations to fund terror activities. Soldeirs in Kabatiyah shot and wounded a gunman whom they spotted in the town. The condition of the Palestinian is unclear. In Yata, south of Hebron, security forces searching a house confiscated a Baretta handgun and matching ammunition clip and bullets. In Malik, north-east of Ramallah, troops confiscated a handgun and two ammunition clips found in a house. In the Gaza Strip, a bomb was detonated near soldiers patrolling the north Gaza security fence. It is the third incident since the IDF pulled out of Gaza in September.