|Israel Resource Review
||25th November, 2008
Hezbollah Triples Its Strength
Jerusalem - Ehud Barak, Israel's defense minister, expressed alarm Tuesday at Hezbollah's apparent growth as a threat to the Jewish state.
"Hezbollah's strength at present is triple its strength at the end of the Second Lebanon War," Mr. Barak told members of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "The organization has rockets that are also capable of reaching Ashkelon, Yeruham and Dimona. They possess 42,000 rockets, as opposed to the 14,000 rockets that were in their possession on the eve of the war."
The defense minister, who is troubled by the Iranian-supported Lebanese terror organization, said the recent maneuvers that Hezbollah carried out in southern Lebanon constituted prove that U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 was not being implemented.
Mr. Barak's stinging criticism of No. 1701 was interpreted as a jab against Israel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who takes pride in that resolution which ended the conflict in Lebanon during Summer 2006
He cited yet another nuclear threat to Israel, citing Pakistan's active nuclear program. Mr. Barak called it the "ultimate nightmare of many countries in the world," which threatened Israel.
The current instability within Pakistan, Mr. Barak warned, could directly threaten Israel.
"The situation in that country is very disturbing to any rational person in the world," he said, noting that Pakistan had a large nuclear arsenal, surface-to-surface missiles with nuclear warheads as well as advanced American-made F-16 jets, capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
Members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee noted that General Pervez Musharraf, who governed Pakistan up until three months ago and who had cooperated with the United States, was forced to resign and has been replaced by Ali Zadari.
Some members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee worry that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, due to the instability, could find its way into al-Qaida's hostile hands. The international Islamist terror group has many supporters in Pakistan.
Regarding Iran, Mr. Barak said it was "continuing to deceive the world and to develop energetically its nuclear program, while trying to buy time." The defense minister underscored that Israel had not taken any option off the table with respect to the manner in which the Iranian nuclear threat would be dealt with.
While addressing the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Mr. Barak also discussed Syria and said that it was helping Hezbollah, maintained a close relationship with that organization and intervened with political processes within Lebanon.
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Guarding Israel's narrow waist - IDF presence in West Bank prevents the rockets that have terrorized Sderot and Ashkelon
Yaakov Lappin , THE JERUSALEM POST
[Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA: A reminder for withdrawal advocates: "The Sharon District has been spared the rockets that have terrorized Sderot and Ashkelon, he said, because, unlike in Gaza, the IDF was on the ground in the West Bank, constantly keeping watch and moving in when necessary."]
From a hilltop on the outskirts of Kalkilya, the soldiers of the 55th
Artillery Battalion can see the lights of Tel Aviv shimmer in the distance.
It is a constant reminder to them of the importance of their mission.
Just 12 kilometers separate Kalkilya from the Mediterranean Sea. In between lie the cities of Kfar Saba, Ra'anana and Herzliya. Netanya and Hadera aren't far off. This is Israel's narrow waist, hemmed in by the sea and the West Bank.
It was once afflicted by continuous terrorist infiltrations but has enjoyed years of relative calm. The quiet is deceptive, though, and the threat of terrorism has not dissipated. In the Palestinian border areas adjacent to the Sharon district, right under the nose of the IDF, Hamas seeks to establish a foothold, and with it the potential for renewed attacks.
Crossing into the West Bank from central Israel involves a dramatic change
in scenery as one leaves the Trans-Israel Highway (Route 6) and climbs to
the Tzofim checkpoint in the rugged, rustic hills of the West Bank, east of Kfar Saba.
With another day of work in Israel behind them, Palestinian farmers on
donkey-drawn carts join a stream of vehicles from the Palestinian Authority at the Eliyahu vehicle crossing, where they must cross back into the West Bank. A number of smaller checkpoints for pedestrians dot the security fence around the crossing.
The military says the security fence has greatly helped in stopping
terrorist raids from the West Bank. If touched, electronic sensors on the
fence will sound an alert, and army vehicles will arrive in minutes.
Footprints in the sand deliberately placed alongside the fence help lead
trackers in the infiltrators' direction. A month ago, soldiers spent the
entire night looking for two infiltrators who had wised up and covered their tracks after crossing into Israel.
"They usually infiltrate for work purposes, but the fact is we never know
why they've crossed until we capture them," a military source told The
Jerusalem Post during a tour of the area.
"We have a double challenge here: to secure Israeli residents while ensuring swift passage for Palestinian workers without impinging on their dignity," he added, as he stopped his jeep to let a group of young Palestinian men cross the street. One of the men waved his thanks.
Still, local youths often "test" the troops, the source said, citing
attempts to cross illegally, as well as rock throwing incidents. To counter this, the army conducts a dialogue with Palestinian community elders, asking their help in keeping the youths under control.
As we drove deeper into the Palestinian territories, a large roadside poster advertised the newly-launched Al-Quds satellite television channel, Hamas's second TV station.
"Hamas operates here," the source acknowledged. "Three days ago, an Israeli man came here to purchase something in a Palestinian store and was shot in the chest and leg," he added, without directly tying the shooting to a specific terror organization. The man is recovering from his wounds at Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba.
Soldiers from the 55th Battalion, which has been in charge of the area for
five months, helped capture the gunman.
"We close off the house, surrounding it quietly," the source said of the
method. "The family is woken up and asked to bring the suspect to the door.
Suspects usually comply; they know they're surrounded and they prefer to get out alive."
The army aims to make the movement of ordinary Palestinian workers as smooth and swift as possible, according to the source. No more than a few minutes' delay at the checkpoint is the goal.
"We want to achieve a minimal level of friction between Palestinians and
soldiers," he said.
To achieve this, the crossing points have been equipped with a computer
system that automatically grants or denies entry to Palestinians based on
their ID numbers.
"The soldiers know they don't have to make a decision on entry," the source explained. "It's not up to them."
Instead of being frisked, Palestinian pedestrians walk through a weapon
detector similar to that at an airport. Next, their ID cards are dropped
through a slot and picked up on the other side of a glass divider by a
soldier, who runs the ID numbers through a computer hooked up to the IDF's
Unless the computer shows that he is barred from crossing into Israel, the
pedestrian should be on the other side within about two minutes.
At the larger Eliyahu crossing, vehicles are stopped and searched by
Military Police officers, who are guarded by the men from the 55th
Battalion. The army does not want drivers to have to wait more than five
minutes, the source said.
"Look over there," he said, pointing to Palestinians walking into the West
Bank and passing by Israeli hitchhikers. The hitchhikers were heading back
to their homes in the settlements of Karnei Shomron and Sha'arei Shomron.
The Sharon District has been spared the rockets that have terrorized Sderot and Ashkelon, he said, because, unlike in Gaza, the IDF was on the ground in the West Bank, constantly keeping watch and moving in when necessary.
In between their duties of securing the Sharon district, the men of the 55th Battalion must also find time to train for their wartime role, which is manning canons and artillery guns. The battalion, which took part in the Second Lebanon War, regularly trains to "keep their skills honed," the
source explained. "We have to be ready for every eventuality."
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