Israel Resource Review 19th April, 2005


Officials of the Israel Ministry of Housing Admit:
No Preparedness for Any Pullout
Ofer Petersburg and Zvi Alush
Correspondents, Yediot Ahronot

"Anyone who dreams that within three months we will be able to propose housing solutions for thousand of evacuees, will be proven wrong. We have been caught with our pants down," say Housing Ministry officials.

At one meeting on disengagement at the Prime Minister's Office this week, one participant said that the cost of buying fans for the tents of the evacuees that will be pitched should be taken into account, since nothing else is moving. "The evacuation will take place in July-August, the peak of the heat wave season in the south," he said, and no one laughed.

On the ground the situation is bleak: yesterday one tractor went into the field to set up a trailer site. The rest of the tractors will join it this week, maybe next week. 1,600 housing unit have already been constructed on paper, but on the ground there is no infrastructure, and contractors don't know what to do. Even one trailer-villa has not been ordered. Not one trailer has been ordered. "An astronomic mess," said a senior Housing Ministry official.

The Finance Ministry has not transferred any money. A week ago, for the first time, in wake of entreaties from Construction and Housing Minister Yitzhak Herzog, Netanyahu agreed to transfer NIS 6.5 million. Herzog said that the preparation of housing solutions will cost NIS .25 billion. The budgets for this have not been prepared.

Even tenders for construction have not been issued and in order to accelerate the process, the army is being brought in to handle construction. Infrastructure preparation will be done by infrastructure contractors who won Defense Ministry tenders that were not used, and who can be hired from one day to the next.

Meanwhile, Housing Ministry officials are examining the idea of leasing hundreds of housing units in Ashkelon and Beer Sheva for the evacuees. Security officials have signed agreements with several hotels and guest houses in Beer Sheva and Ashkelon to lodge the evacuee families.

This piece ran in Yediot Aharonot on April 19th, 2005

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IDF Warns:
"Calm" on Verge of Explosion
Yossi Yehoshua and Itzik Saban
Correspondents, Yediot Ahronot

The quiet along the border with Egypt was violated yesterday once again. An IDF NCO who serves with the Engineering Corps was severely injured and an Israeli civilian was moderately injured yesterday afternoon from shots that were fired at them near the Hardon outpost on Philadelphi Road, which runs along the Israeli-Egyptian border. The two were taken by ambulance and helicopter to Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva.

IDF officials said they believed that the shots were fired by a Palestinian sniper from a few hundred meters distance. The two were doing infrastructure work on the new wall being erected currently along Philadelphi Road. The work is being done under cover of armor that was set up on the scene precisely to prevent this kind of sniper fire.

The Salah A-Din Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, assumed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in response to the death of the three Palestinian children in Rafah and in response to the killing of the Fatah activist in Nablus on Thursday.

In the aftermath of the incident, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon said yesterday at a conference on the army and society in Herzliya: "We have signs in the past number of weeks that terrorism is on the rise. We may see only few terror attacks until disengagement, but immediately after disengagement we are liable to see an outburst of the terror organizations, particularly in Judea and Samaria. Abu Mazen needs to be demanded to deal with this now."

The Israel chief of staff further said: "Let no one think that the Messiah is going to come along with disengagement. Immediately after disengagement we can anticipate another outburst. All of the signs currently indicate as much, unless Abu Mazen takes action against the organizations."

IDF officials tell of an escalation in violence in the Gaza recently. In the last week there were three times as many violent incidents in the Gaza Strip in comparison to the initial weeks after the tahdiya was declared. According to data compiled by the Gaza Division, in an average week there are between seven and eight incidents recorded, whereas in the course of the current week 27 separate terrorist incidents were recorded-an increase of more than 300% in the number of terror attacks, which include sniper fire, planting bombs and mortar shell fire.

IDF officials said that this is a substantial erosion of the cease-fire that stems from a reduced level of activity by the Palestinian Authority to prevent terrorism. The military officials warned that the period of calm might soon collapse. At issue is a dramatic rise in the number of incidents that is coupled with inaction by the Palestinian Authority, which has done nothing to stop them. "The cease-fire is fragile," warn the military officials.

IDF officials explained that this was a problem in dealing with the Palestinian Authority, since "the Popular Resistance Committees see that the PA is not acting against them, so they continue. Things can't go on this way, our patience is waning. The PA has to act against the organizations immediately, because the cease-fire is in real danger."

[Ma'ariv added: [.] IDF officials warned that the Palestinians are not trying to prevent the situation from deteriorating, while Israel security forces are not allowed to operate inside Palestinian territory. "The cease-fire is gradually eroding," said a Southern Command official. "We have not yet returned to the situation before the calm, in which there were about 100 incidents a week, but we could return to this situation." IDF officials referred to the political echelon in Jerusalem as the only element capable of putting pressure on the Palestinian Authority and PA Chairman Abu Mazen, as pressure by the IDF on Commander of Palestinian Security Forces in the Gaza Strip Moussa Arafat is not enough.

In the weeks that have passed since calm was declared at the beginning of February, there are nine incidents every week on average of fighting in the Gaza Strip. This was a decline of about 90% compared to the situation up until January, during which every week there were about 100 incidents. Southern Command officials said they believed that prior to disengagement, the number of terror incidents during evacuation will be similar to before the quiet. [.]

Military sources said that until the incident yesterday, no senior Israel officials had noticed the sharp increase in gunfire incidents, nor did they take action to stop the trend. "The IDF is not permitted to operate in Palestinian territory, but someone has to operate there," said a military source in frustration. "The Palestinians allow the Popular Resistance Committees to operate without hindrance." [.] ]

These pieces ran on April 19th, 2005 in Yediot Ahronot and Maariv

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Israeli City Prepares for Missile Attacks
Middle East News Line exclusive

TEL AVIV [MENL] -- Israel's military has been bracing for Palestinian missile attacks on a major southern city.

Israeli officials said the military has assessed that Palestinian insurgents would launch missile strikes on Ashkelon, north of the Gaza Strip. They said the military has been introducing systems and platforms into Ashkelon to detect and respond to missile attacks.

"Ashkelon is the choice target for the Palestinians," an official said. "This city has critical facilities that must be protected."

[On Monday, two Israelis were also injured in a Palestinian shooting attack. Palestinian gunners also fired rockets and missiles toward Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip. Officials said Palestinian insurgency groups have stepped up their attacks in violation of the ceasefire announced by the PA in February.]

Over the last few weeks, the military has deployed radars and begun assembly of a command and control system in Ashkelon. The radar was identified as the Nur, an Israeli modification of the U.S.-origin TPQ-37 artillery-detection system.

Ashkelon contains such critical facilities as a port, oil depot and power station. The city is located nine kilometers north of the Gaza Strip and within range of the Kassam-class missile.

Hamas has deployed three versions of the Kassam, the latest of which has a range of more than 10 kilometers. Officials said Hamas has been testing a longer-range version in flights from the Gaza Strip into the Mediterranean Sea.

Hamas has also obtained standard fuzes as well as explosives for the missile's warhead. Officials said the components were smuggled from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

Officials said the military has the capability to detect any Kassam launch and predict where the missile would land. But the military does not have any system to intercept the Kassam.

Israel and the United States have been jointly developing the Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser for the interception of short-range missiles, rockets and mortars. Officials said an M-THEL prototype would not be completed before 2008.

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Voice of Israel Radio:
Palestinians say Abbas Wrong -
Weapons have not been Collected

Dr. Aaron Lerner
Director, IMRA, Independent Media Review Analysis

The Israel Broadcasting Corporation's Voice of Israel Radio Arab Affairs Correspondent Avi Yissakharov reported this afternoon that PA head Mahmoud Abbas claimed in a meeting with Israeli reporters that the PA has collected all the weapons held by "wanted" Palestinians in Jericho and Tulkarem and that they will all soon be joining the PA security forces.

Yissakharov noted that when he checked with Palestinian sources that they all denied that this was the case and the Palestinians told him that while the PA has made announcements regarding the collection of weapons that in fact the weapons have yet to be collected.

Yissakharov suggested that Abbas may not have been intentionally deceiving the Israeli reporters and instead may simply not be "informed".

In sharp contrast to the possibility that Abbas is simply clueless about what is going on in the PA, the people at Israel Radio who summarized Yissakharov's report for their website were aware that Yissakharov found that Abbas was wrong but decided not to include that information in the summary that appears on Israel Radio's website.

Instead, the website report only reports Abbas' claim.

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