IDF: Rafah may become terror channel

Mofaz orders IDF to keep arresting Hamas operatives, step up pressure on Jihad.

kids cross rafah298 88ap (photo credit: AP [file])
kids cross rafah298 88ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hamas's unexpected landslide victory in last week's Palestinian elections was described by IDF officers over the weekend as an "earthquake" that could change not only the government's attitude towards the Palestinian Authority but the army's work relationship with PA security forces. While cities like Ramallah and Nablus in the West Bank are under PA control, passage between them and into Israel is supervised by the IDF. The same is the situation along Israel's borders with Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. The one border crossing out of Israel's hands is Rafah where security officials told The Jerusalem Post over the weekend, terrorists have entered almost unhindered into the Gaza Strip in recent months. The Southern Command's biggest fear now officers said was that with Hamas in charge of the PA Rafah might turn into a "terror channel." Since December, the Rafah terminal has been under the full control of the Palestinians without Israeli supervision. While European monitors from the Border Assistance Mission (BAM) oversee the Palestinian management of the crossing, senior IDF officers said Friday they were disappointed with the BAM. "They are not doing their job as well as we would have hoped," one officer from the Southern Command said. "Unfortunately there are people we would prefer would not be allowed into Gaza who are getting in." But the Rafah crossing might turn out to be the least of Israel's problems. With Hamas running the Gaza Strip and possibly the PA security forces, the army might not have who to call to coordinate different security issues. As a case example, IDF officers referred to the security cooperation at the Karni crossing into Gaza where PA and IDF forces have been digging - each on their respective side - for the past two weeks in search of terror tunnels. "Now that Hamas is in charge," an IDF source said, "we may not be able to call the PA police and ask them to help us dig for terror tunnels or defuse a bomb placed along the Gaza fence." The defense establishment doesn't have any illusions or high expectations there would be a sudden and immediate change in Hamas's attitude towards Israel. On Friday, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz instructed the IDF to keep up its pressure on terror organizations including the Hamas and if needed arrest Hamas operatives in the West Bank. In addition, Mofaz ordered the army to step up its pressure on the Islamic Jihad - behind a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv a week-and-a-half ago - out of fear the terror group would escalate is anti-Israel activity in an effort to vanguard the Palestinian struggle against the so-called Israeli occupation. "The fight against terror will stay the same including when dealing with the Hamas," a senior security source said Friday. On Saturday, Mofaz said Israel would not rule out future targeted killings against Hamas leaders, regardless of their position in government. "Whoever stands at the head of a terror organization and continues to carry out terror attacks against Israel is not immune," he said. "If Hamas will turn to terror, it will find itself under an unprecedented attack from the state of Israel." The security source said that while arrests of Hamas operatives would continue, the army was ordered by Mofaz to consult with the political echelon on sensitive issues related to the Hamas. "The political echelon will be more involved now than it was in the past," the source said. "We will have to use more judgment now than before."