Somewhere between four and seven terrorists — breaking through a fence — entered Israel from the center of Gaza today and made their way to the Nahal Oz fuel terminal, where they killed two civilians who worked at the terminal: Oleg Lipson, 37,and Lev Charniak, 53; both from Beersheba. It is speculated that this was intended to be a kidnapping and that only a swift response by the IDF on the scene prevented this.
Responsibility has been claimed by Islamic Jihad , the Popular Resistance Committees and splinter group of Fatah — Mujahideen Brigades. Israel says, however, that, as Hamas rules the area, Hamas is to be held responsible.
The irony is that Gaza receives much of its fuel via this terminal, and that the two men killed were involved in that process. Four million liters of gasoline and diesel oil, and an unlimited supply of cooking fuel, enter Gaza via the Nahal Oz crossing every week.
Investigation is now on-going.
Egypt, for its part, is vastly uneasy because of renewed threats by Hamas to breach the border and enter the Sinai again as happened in January.
Said an unidentified Egyptian official: "[Egypt] will not take lightly the protection of its frontiers against any attempt to violate them, no matter who they are. Egypt’s borders are a red line you cannot cross. Egypt is capable of responding to any attempt to violate its frontiers."
Egypt , I will say, can be — and if pushed, will be — tough on those entering Egyptian territory.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry expressed "profound amazement" at the Hamas threats in light of efforts Egypt has made "to lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip and reach a truce allowing Palestinians from Gaza to live a normal life."
It warned that inappropriate actions would "damage the Palestinian cause."
What was actually said yesterday , by Khahil al-Hayya, described as a senior member of Hamas, was "all options are open to break the siege. I expect that what will happen next will be greater than what happened before, not only against the Egyptian border, but against all the crossings."
This constitutes a threat against Israel, as well.
According to an unsettling report by Mate Binyamin regional council deputy head Moti Yogev, the IDF has begun collecting weapons from the armories of communities in Judea and Samaria – even personal weapons the army provided to settlers for self-defense.
"These steps are being carried out, surprisingly , at the same time that unprecedented steps are being taken to ease the security restrictions on Palestinians, including lifting roadblocks and other impediments that undermine the security of the residents of Judea and Samaria," Yesha Council of settlements head Dani Daya wrote to Maj.-General Gadi Shamni of the Central Command .
An IDF source said the decision to c ollect the arms was made because several break-ins that occurred at armories over the past few years.
Aaron Lerner of IMRA has it right: "So if you think that the IDF suddenly strips the armories today simply because of something that has been going on for years please contact IMRA at once for our special early bird special sale of the Brooklyn Bridge."
I will remind everyone that very recently an attempted terrorist attack near Shilo was stopped because one of the intended victims was carrying a personal weapon, which he used.
Olmert and Abbas met in Jerusalem on Monday in an attempt to further negotiations. Reports indicate that it ended in "mutual recriminations."
Yesterday chief negotiators Tzipi Livni and Ahmed Qurie met and discussed "core issues."
Yesterday, as well, Yossi Beilin announced that when Bush comes here in May he also would like to do a summit meeting at Sharm el-Sheihk that would be a follow-up to Annapolis. Beilin expressed the opinion that, unless something concrete had been accomplished, such a meeting would be foolish. "It’s an idiotic idea to hold another hollow summit."
I would say that’s about right.
Today Jerusalem officials, who say planning is in the early stages and that no date has been set and no invitations extended, confirm Bush’s intentions in the matter. Bush will be here May 14-16 in honor of Israel’s 60th. (Those of us who live in Jerusalem shudder at the anticipation of another visit from the US president, which totally freezes the city.)
According to Beilin, Bush and Egyptian President Mubarak would host the summit, with Olmert, Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah invited.
I am reluctant to return to this subject , because I feel there is much of greater significance to discuss. But briefly here I believe it’s appropriate:
Former president Moshe Katzav had entered into a plea bargain with the attorney general nine months ago, with regard to the charges against him of sexual impropriety; the charge of rape was dropped and lesser charges were put in place. At that point the women who had made the original accusations were outraged.
Now, as Katzav was scheduled to come before the court, he decided to renounce the plea bargain and go to trial in order to prove his innocence. Attorney General Mazuz called this "shocking," and indicated that the prosecution would likely to return to an indictment that included the more severe charges.
Returning to the unsubstantiated report I referred to on Monday, with regard to Fatah and Hamas having secretly reached an agreement for a unity government: We would have to "wait and see," I had concluded. That remains my conclusion after checking with two Arabic-speaking Israelis "in the know."
One, a journalist, said the report wasn’t true.
But the second, an academic, said something different: Fatah and Hamas are always talking, he said. But he remains doubtful that they will achieve a final and stable agreement.
Could they reach an agreement, even temporarily, that might upset the negotiations? I asked.
That was possible he conceded. We spoke a bit about Abbas’s vulnerability and weakness, which he termed as being between the "rock of Israel and the hard place of Hamas." That is, Abbas’s autonomous options are minimal to non-existent and there is possibility that he might attempt to go with Hamas as a way of resolving his difficulties.
Wait and see…