IDF gears up for crackdown on Jihad

Aim to apprehend all Islamic Jihad terrorists operating in the north W. Bank.

IDF shells 298 (photo credit: AP)
IDF shells 298
(photo credit: AP)
As the IDF slowly gears up for a massive and prolonged crackdown on the Islamic Jihad, security forces Tuesday arrested the father and brothers of the 21-year-old Arab suicide bomber who killed five people in a Netanya shopping mall entrance. A senior IDF officer said the aim of the operation was to get their hands on all of the Islamic Jihad terrorists operating mainly in the northern West Bank. Paratroopers and other crack units are expected to participate in the sweep that will last at least a month. The IDF Central command was still preparing the groundwork for major operations soon. Israel launched arrest raids immediately following the bombing. Before dawn, security forces came to the house of Lotfi Abu Saada, the suicide bomber, and detained his father Amin and three of his brothers in their village of Illar. They also rounded up eight suspected Islamic Jihad members in the village, security sources said. A total of 14 suspected Palestinian terrorists were arrested Tuesday, which include a number of Hamas activists in the Hebron area and Fatah-Tanzim members in the Bethlehem area. Last night, an Israeli woman was lightly injured when her vehicle was pelted with stones as it passed near the village of Azun south of Kalkilya in the West Bank. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Tuesday "Israel was not planning another widescope military operation like Defensive Shield" adding that he intended to lead a significant diplomatic operation in order to influence the US and Europe to pressure the Palestinian Authority. Israel also suspended VIP entry permits for Palestinian officials and would buffer its forces in border areas near the West Bank, Shalom said. His remarks were made during a meeting with the US ambassador to Israel, Richard Jones. News agencies reported that Islamic Jihad leaders in the Gaza Strip could not be reached by mobile phones, suggesting they had switched them off as they went underground to avoid being targeted by Israel. The relatively small Islamic Jihad is also being revealed as a group that has lost touch with the Palestinian street which is mostly in favor of continuing the cease-fire with Israel as they conduct their elections and didn't want to see a return to the cycle of violence resulting from suicide attacks. The Islamic Jihad is also revealing itself as a group that is more difficult to crush than other Palestinian terrorist organizations. Israel has detained some 1,000 of its members or supporters in the past months including some key commanders. There are still many operatives on the loose, security sources said. "It turns out that the more we cut the grass (of terrorists) the more it continues to grow," one security official said. This is because the operations come from outside the territories. Each cell is independent and directly linked with Damascus. This means that there is less dependency on the other making it more difficult for Israeli intelligence to hone in on them. An investigation was still underway to determine how the suicide bomber entered Israel. It is becoming more likely that he slipped through a crossing and not over the fence or by going around it. Also Tuesday, Palestinian security services reportedly said they had arrested three Islamic Jihad members in Nablus. But their attempts to carryout more arrests in the nearby Balata and Askar refugee camps were repelled by a group of gunmen blocking their way.