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Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Jerusalem Intifada Has Started

So much for a truce with Hamas. The Terrorist Organization has declared that the two tractor attacks are the beginning of the Jerusalem Intifada. Apparently, Shabak security chief Yuval Diskin actually predicted more acts of terrorism for Israel's capital. He warned it was 'very important' to start reimposing the sealing-up or demolition of terrorists family homes, otherwise Israel had no means of deterring would-be terrorists who lived inside Jerusalem. The Olmert Government is resisting as usual. The report below looks at the available intelligence regarding the terrorist areas in East Jerusalem and the internal Israeli Government battle:

Hamas:'This Is Now Jerusalem Intifada With More Attacks On The Way

Shabak chief Yuval Diskin calls for sealing-up or demolishing terrorists' homes... The second tractor attack this month should not have come as a surprise. Following the first incident on July 2nd, IsraCast immediately quoted an Israeli security expert as saying:'Greatest concern now is that of copycat effect-other potential terrorists may now try vehicle attacks!' That assessment was soon to be realized. And then just hours before the latest assault ,Shabak security chief Yuval Diskin told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that although there were no specific alerts, he expected more attacks. He pointed to what he called a 'power vacuum' in some parts of east Jerusalem where some 250,00 Palestinians reside.

For example,'it was more complicated for Israeli security forces to enter the Shuafat refugee camp in the capital than it was for the IDF to go into the Jenin refugee camp on the West Bank. Diskin called on Israel's political leadership to address the situation. It appears then that Israel's goal of maintain control over all of Jerusalem as a free and open city, for Jews and Arabs alike, is not without its problems.

The Arab residents, although they are not Israeli citizens, carry Israeli identity cards and enjoy total freedom of movement in the capital, where thousands of them are employed in the Jewish part of west Jerusalem. The vast majority are interested solely in earning a living but the potential terrorists have both the 'means and motivation' to carry out vicious surprise attacks on unsuspecting Israeli civilians. The spate of recent Jerusalem violence-two tractor rampages, a mass shooting spree and several other minor shootings and stabbings now poses a new challenge on several levels. Security paradox of Israel's successful suppression of suicide bombers from West Bank...

Paradoxically, the unconventional tractor tactics in Jerusalem illustrate the success of Israeli counter-terror operations on the West Bank. In 2002, the IDF launched operation Defensive Shield that stifled the wave of suicide bombers which had murdered scores of Israeli civilians. Since then, the security forces have carried out a relentless campaign; Diskin said the terror infrastructure on the West Bank has been smashed while many of the terrorists have been killed or captured. Moreover, the security fence has also blocked the previous ease with which suicide bombers walked into Israel.

The figures speak for themselves... in 2002, fifty-three Israelis were killed by suicide bombers compared to last year when there was only one fatality. So now stymied on the West Bank, the terrorists have popped up in Jerusalem. As one security expert puts it :' It's like pressing a balloon in one place and it expands in another'. However, there is obviously a major difference between the ' quality ' and quantity of the terror attacks. What's to be done? At present, it is estimated that dozens of Palestinian drivers from east Jerusalem are now driving tractors and bulldozers on the streets of the capital.

How to identify those potential terrorists who will exploit the opportunity to suddenly turn their vehicle into a deadly weapon. Public Security Minister Avi Dichter has talked about better security checks but if the terrorists are not known members of organizations and act on their own, it is nigh impossible for advance intelligence to sift them out of the other drivers who pose no risk. The terrorist simply climbs into his vehicle as he does every day and then goes on his rampage smashing into as many cars and buses as he can. The motivation could be Islamist fundamentalism or even personal pique.

Obviously, one counter-measure could be to bar all east Jerusalemites from driving heavy vehicles in the western part of the capital, but this would be collective punishment penalizing the overwhelming majority who simply want to earn a living.And it would also undermine the goal of a unified Jerusalem. The tractor terrorists and the shooter at the Mercaz Harav religious seminary are a new type of suicide killers. Therefore, there is no question of 'making the punishment fit the crime' with these shahid martyrs who are reconciled to their act and the sojourn with their seventy-two virgins in Paradise.

There is one other alternative measure that is now on the agenda - the sealing-up or demolition of the family homes of the terrorists. This was a punitive step taken by Israel but it was halted after an official Israeli study found that it was ineffective in halting suicide bombers. Its opponents also contended it would anger other potential terrorists to take action. But the counter argument is there is no way of knowing if the punitive may have deterred other attacks. In any case, Shabak security chief has called on the government to reimpose home demolition or seal-up; otherwise he said Israel has no deterrent to would-be terrorists who become Jerusalem's enemy within. Hamas co-opts 'Jerusalem intifada'...

Although the Jerusalem terrorists have not been linked to any known organization, Hamas has now co-opted the current wave branding it the 'Jerusalem intifada'. Although Hamas is maintaining the Tahadiya cease- fire in the Gaza Strip, it still wants to stay in the terrorist limelight. And while most of Israel has enjoyed 'relative quiet' lately, Jerusalem has now become the hotspot and both the political and security echelons are racking their brains over what's to be done to prevent the current the recent violence from escalating into a real 'Jerusalem intifada' with all the wide-ranging implications in perhaps the most disputed city on earth.

Footnote: If Israel does opt for the more drastic punitive steps of sealing - up or demolishing terrorists' home in an attempt to halt the deadly attacks on Jerusalem's civilians, it should also add a provision meting out the same punishment for any Israeli citizen who may carry out a deadly act of terrorism against Palestinians. This in the interest of equality before the law in Israel's capital city.

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