IDF to advise security cabinet against W. Bank cease-fire

; Cabinet also expected to discuss Ghajar; Kassam hits W. Negev.

IDF nablus 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
IDF nablus 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
After a Kassam rocket fired from Gaza landed in the western Negev on Sunday, bringing the total number of rockets fired since the cease-fire went into effect to seven, the security cabinet was expected to meet later Sunday morning and debate on whether to expand the Gaza cease-fire to the West Bank, with senior security officials warning that such a move could lead to a spike in terrorism. Also, Peretz was expected to give the IDF explicit instructions on opening fire in Gaza.
  • Critical Currents: Whither a cease-fire? {column) To back their argument that continued IDF activity was necessary in the West Bank, senior IDF sources in the Central Command said that last week alone Palestinians tried smuggling some 10 pipe bombs out of Nablus through the Hawara Checkpoint, south of the city. "The terror here never stops and only grows," one officer said of the West Bank. "The only way to keep it under control is by retaining our presence in the territory." According to statistics released by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies (CSS), there were 287 terror attacks including shootings, Kassam rocket attacks, stabbings and roadside bombs in November, in comparison to 172 in October, 115 in September and 151 in August. A cease-fire in the West Bank would most likely mean an end to IDF arrest raids in Palestinian towns, like the one in Nablus last week during which security forces uncovered a number of stuffed animals filled with explosive charges, IDF sources said. The sources estimated that in addition to a cessation of military operations, the cease-fire would also include the removal of checkpoints outside some Palestinian cities. A senior official in the Prime Minister's Office said Saturday night that the security issue was one very important consideration to weigh in deciding whether to expand the cease-fire, but other considerations would also be raised at the meeting - including international opinion and the need to relieve the humanitarian situation in the West Bank. Diplomatic officials said there was a growing sense in some capitals that there was currently diplomatic momentum that needed to be harnessed, stemming from the Gaza cease-fire and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Sde Boker speech. As an indication of the momentum, two foreign ministers - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik - will hold talks with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem on Sunday, as will Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief. While the Plassnik visit was planned well in advance, Solana's and Steinmeier's trips came about as a result of last week's events. The security cabinet is also expected on Sunday to discuss Ghajar, the Alawite Moslem village that straddles the Israeli-Lebanese border. During the summer's war in Lebanon, the IDF took up positions in the northern Lebanese part of Ghajar to prevent Hizbullah infiltrations into Israel, and - as The Jerusalem Post first reported last month - the IDF has recommended disengaging from the northern part of the village and moving the residents to the part of town on Israel's side of the border. Four hundred families, all holders of Israeli blue identity cards, live in the northern section of the village. Another option expected to be brought up Sunday would be for UNIFIL to supervise both parts of the village, with the villagers to receive their services from Israel, and UNIFIL forces to ensure that Hizbullah not infiltrate into the town. This plan was reportedly drawn up in indirect contacts between Israel and Lebanon, through UN mediation. The IDF has made clear it was opposed to returning the situation to what it was before the war, where the town was split down the middle by the international border. This situation posed a major security dilemma for the country since Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, and was the scene of a thwarted Hizbullah attempt to kidnap IDF soldiers last year. Since the cease-fire went into effect on August 14, UNIFIL and the Lebanese government have repeatedly called for an Israeli withdrawal, claiming that the IDF presence there was a serious violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701. Another option that will be raised, but is not considered realistic, would be for the IDF to build a fence along the outskirts of the northern part of the village and reroute the border so the entire town is inside Israel, something that Israeli officials have said would invite intense Lebanese and international criticism.