IDF defends Ramallah anti-terror campaigns

Deflecting criticism that last Thursday's botched operation in Ramallah soured Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Central Command sources pointed Saturday to weekend violence in the West Bank as proof of the need for such anti-terror operations. OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh, who approved the mid-day arrest operation in downtown Ramallah, came under criticism from diplomatic officials, who claimed the general should have taken into consideration the damage the botched operation could have on Olmert's concurrent meeting in Egypt. Six Palestinians were killed in the operation and some 30 others were wounded, as soldiers tried to apprehend a fugitive Palestinian terrorist. According to reports, Naveh did not inform Defense Minister Amir Peretz of the raid before it was carried out. Central Command sources said that Naveh was not obligated to inform the diplomatic echelon prior to such operations that "were carried out daily in the West Bank." According to the sources, the suspect was a senior terror operative and the operation had been given the green light after intelligence was received indicating that he was inside a building in downtown Ramallah. "This arrest raid was one of dozens we conduct [each] week," said one source in the Central Command. "Just like the diplomatic echelon is not updated on those, it was also not updated on this one." Labor MK Danny Yatom said Friday that such an operation should not have been carried out while Olmert was meeting Mubarak in Sharm e-Sheikh. Infrastructure Minister and former defense minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer expressed similar sentiments. "I don't think this operation should have been carried out on the day of a visit by the Israeli prime minister to a country in which we have a supreme strategic interest," Ben-Eliezer said. "Our relations with Egypt are more important to us than anything else." Mubarak criticized the raid during the meeting with Olmert on Thursday, saying that it was hindering peace efforts. Olmert apologized for the deaths of civilians, but emphasized that the aim of the operation in Ramallah had been to catch a terrorist involved in activity against Israel. On Saturday, IDF reservists discovered a homemade gun near Kalkilya. In Hebron, a Palestinian was arrested after he was caught at a checkpoint near the city in possession of three knives. Another Palestinian was arrested after he tried to steal a soldier's rifle at a checkpoint near the West Bank village of Rafat. Also Saturday, IDF troops opened fire at a group of 10 Palestinians who had approached the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip. Two of the Palestinians were wounded.