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A dangerous liquidation

By Alex Fishman, Yediot Aharonot, Nov. 25, 2001

After raising our hats to the Shabak and the IDF for the liquidation of Mahmud Abu Hunud, the so-called "No. 1 wanted Hamas terrorist" - interesting, those who are liquidated are always "No. 1", does Hamas have no No. 2 or No.3? - we again find ourselves preparing with dread for a new mass terrorist attack within the Green Line [Israel's pre-'67 border].

Whoever gave a green light to this act of liquidation knew full well that he is thereby shattering in one blow the gentleman's agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority; under that agreement, Hamas was to avoid in the near future suicide bombings inside the Green Line, of the kind perpetrated at the Dolphinarium [discotheque in Tel-Aviv A.K].  Such an agreement did exist, even if neither the PA nor Hamas would admit it in public. It is a fact that, while the security services did accumulate repeated warnings of planned Hamas terrorist attacks within the Green Line, these did not materialize. That cannot be attributed solely to the Shabak's impressive success in intercepting the suicide bombers and their controllers.

Rather, the respective leaderships of the PA and Hamas came to the understanding that it would be better not to play into Israel's hands by mass attacks on its population centres. This understanding was, however, shattered by the assassination the day before yesterday - and whoever decided upon the liquidation of Abu Hunud knew in advance that that would be the price. The subject was extensively discussed both by Israel's military echelon and its political one, before it was decided to carry out the liquidation.

Now, the security bodies assume that Hamas will embark on a concerted effort to carry out suicide bombings, and preparations are made accordingly. Even before the expected major terrorist attack takes place inside the Green Line, we could already see the breaching of the "fire barriers" which were established after the army's withdrawal from the West Bank cities, as Hamas responded [to the killing of Abu Hunud] with a widespread series of attacks.

There is little doubt that Abu-Hunud was an arch-murderer whose liquidation would damage, at least temporarily, Hamas' operational capabilities in the Samaria Sector [northern part of the West Bank]. Nor is it to be doubted that any such liquidation constitutes an impressive Israeli operational achievement. But does this string of operational successes serve any political aim, any strategy leading anywhere? Do 20 liquidations or 50 ones make any substantial difference, either in the campaign against terrorism or on the political arena? Do these liquidations - successful as they may be - detract even a little from the motivation of the terrorist organizations? In the fast-widening "pockets of despair", to be found all over the [occupied] territories, there is an inexhaustible supply of potential suicide bombers. While in the past Israel's Military Intelligence tried to keep up a current numerical estimate of the arsenal of potential suiciders, nowadays the terrorist organizations have no problem to get as many as they want, and can even afford to pick and choose among the potential recruits.

The coming act of retribution which is now "in the air" has gotten complete legitimacy - both in the Palestinian society at large and in the Palestinian Authority - because of the death of the five children killed by an IDF explosive charge at Khan Yunes. It was a tragic accident, and it is inconceivable that anybody in the IDF would have dared to lay an explosive charge with the conscious knowledge that it may hurt children. Still, the case of this explosive charge is a horrifying side-effect of the method of targeted killings, a method which had become Israel's central instrument of fighting terrorism.

The string of successes has made this method into a daily routine. The political echelon is constantly pushing the military one to produce more and more activities of this kind. For example, the number of "special operations" in the Gaza Strip - i.e., secret penetrations into the [Palestinian-controlled] "A" area for the purpose of prevention, arrests, ambushes and liquidations - has arisen by 400% in the past three months. When this kind of activity becomes a routine, one might lose sensitivity and caution. That is how an explosive charge can find its way to a place where children are also to be found.

haGalil onLine 26-11-2001

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