'Hamas planning huge holiday attack'

Intelligence chief: Hamas will do everything it can to spoil Israeli's 60th birthday bash next week.

Amos Yadlin 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Amos Yadlin 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Hamas will do everything it can to spoil Israel's 60th birthday bash next week with a high-profile terror attack, OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin told the cabinet on Tuesday. Yadlin said intelligence information indicated that Hamas would try to carry out a large-scale operation, similar to the one it failed to pull off on the eve of Pessah at southern Gaza's Kerem Shalom crossing two weeks ago. During that attack - which included heavy gunfire, mortar shell barrages and two car bombs - 13 IDF soldiers were wounded, and four terrorists were killed. Yadlin said the anticipated Hamas attack could include a number of different elements, such as sniper fire and attempts to kidnap IDF soldiers. Hamas might try again to break through the fence into Israel, he warned, adding that the Islamist organization was less likely to repeat the January 23 breach of the Egyptian side of the fence because of Cairo's determination to prevent that from happening again. According to Yadlin, the Israeli border crossings into Gaza are a preferred Hamas target, because such attacks incorporate a strike against both soldiers and civilians and because by hitting the crossings, Hamas hampers the flow of humanitarian aid to the Strip, which can then be blamed on Israel. Regarding the ongoing talks between Hamas and Egypt on a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, Yadlin reminded the ministers that a hudna for Hamas was not a peace agreement, but rather a five-to-10-year cease-fire. He also said that Damascus-based Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal had made clear that Hamas needed the proposed cease-fire so it could "regroup." A broader defense briefing is scheduled for Wednesday in the security cabinet. Also on Tuesday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed "deep sorrow" over the "tragic event" a day earlier in which Miyasar Abu Meatak and her four children were killed after an IAF strike in northern Gaza's Beit Hanun. He stopped short, however, of issuing an apology or taking responsibility for the tragedy. "The state and government of Israel are deeply saddened at every innocent civilian that is hurt, certainly a mother and four children who were killed," Olmert said at the outset of the weekly cabinet meeting, which was moved to Tuesday because of Sunday's Mimouna celebration. "We are saddened by that. We are saddened that Israeli citizens have been getting hurt for years. We are saddened by the boy [eight year-old Osher Twito from Sderot] who lost a leg not long ago as a result of Kassam fire. We are saddened that Hamas operates from civilian population centers and turns the civilian population in Gaza into an inseparable part of their war," he said. Olmert said Kassam rockets continued to strike Israel and that a rocket fired Tuesday morning had smashed into a home in Sderot. Around 18 rockets were fired on Monday, he said, and it was only by a miracle that no one was injured. "I hope that the terrorist organizations' brutal war will end," he said in an apparent reference to cease-fire discussions taking place between Hamas and Egypt. "I am sorry it is continuing." Israel's true sorrow over the loss of innocent life was more genuine than the fake sorrow of the terrorist organizations that exposed Palestinians to such situations, Olmert said. "But as long as the terrorist organizations fire at the citizens of the South, the IDF will continue to take action against them," he said. The prime minister also said that the IDF would continue its investigation of the Beit Hanun incident. A colonel from the Gaza Division was appointed to probe the blast, which the army said happened after the air force killed two terrorists near the home. Secondary explosions, caused by explosives the terrorists were carrying, blew up the home, killing the mother and her children, the army said. IDF sources said Tuesday that there was a video of the missile strike that was unclear and therefore had not been released to the public. The video did, however, show that the IAF missile had hit the terrorists and not the home itself, the sources claimed. The sources said that the terrorists were seen in the video standing meters away from the home. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Tuesday that Israel was in the midst of a conflict with Hamas in Gaza, which he said was responsible for the explosion in Beit Hanun. Close to 20 mortar shells and more than 15 Kassam rockets slammed into Gaza-belt communities throughout the day, with one scoring a direct hit on a home in Sderot, causing extensive damage and sending seven people into shock. "Hamas is responsible for all of the terror activity in Gaza," Barak said during a tour of the West Bank security barrier. "We are, of course, not happy when civilians are killed, but we view Hamas as being responsible for everything that happens in Gaza." Hamas's armed wing, Izzadin Kassam, claimed responsibility for firing nine of Tuesday's Kassams, while the armed wing of Islamic Jihad said it had fired at least two rockets, as well as additional rockets on Monday. According to Islamic Jihad, the attacks were a response to "Israel's crimes" against the Palestinians, including the deaths of five family members in Beit Hanun.