Israeli Planes Strike Palestinian Terrorist Camps in Lebanon
Recent progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in danger of being undone, as Palestinian terrorist groups in Lebanon are proving increasingly unwilling to heed their elected leaders. After the terrorists shot several volleys of Katyusha rockets into Israel, they were met with retalliatory strikes from the Israeli Defense Forces.
Israeli warplanes have bombed Palestinian targets near Beirut and in the Gaza Strip in response to a series of rocket attacks in the north and south of the Jewish state. At least two members of the PFLP-GC, a radical pro-Syrian faction headed by the veteran Ahmed Jibril, were wounded in the air strikes to the south of the Lebanese capital although there were no reported casualties in Gaza. Both were injured in a missile strike “which blew a hole in a concrete armoured protection wall in Noueyma,” south of Beirut, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command spokesman Anur Raja told AFP.
The air strikes on Lebanon came in response to the firing of a series of Katyusha rockets into the north of Israel that went unclaimed. Israeli security sources said at least three Katyusha rockets had been fired at the town of Kiryat Shmona, hitting the roofs of two houses.
“Israel wants to blame us for the rocket attacks to provoke a hostile reaction against us in Lebanon,” said the PFLP-GC’s Raja. “We say to our Lebanese brothers that we were in no way implicated.” However General Udi Adam, head of Israel’s northern regional command, said the army knew who was responsible for the attacks. “The Palestinian terror organisations in Lebanon want to escalate the situation on the northern border and Lebanon, a sovereign country, allows them to operate from its territory,” Adam told public radio. “I hope that the other side understands the message of the IDF (army’s) attack last night.”
Adam was less coy in his conversation with AP’s Sam Ghattas:
Israeli jets attacked a Palestinian militant group’s training base near Beirut on Wednesday, slightly wounding two guerrillas, hours after an Israeli border town was hit by rocket fire. The strike against the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command was Israel’s deepest inside Lebanon since June 2004.
[T]he top general for northern Israel, Maj. Gen. Udi Adam, vowed to retaliate against future rocket attacks from Lebanon and did not rule out targeting installations in Syria. “The main message that we passed and we are trying to give is that the Lebanese government must take responsibility for what happens in its territory,” said Adam, head of the army’s northern command, which oversees the tense Israel-Lebanon border. “If Kiryat Shmona residents don’t sleep quietly, then the residents of Beirut won’t sleep quietly. This is an unequivocal message,” Adam told The Associated Press.
Reuters focuses on the internal Palestinian struggle:
Gunmen from the ruling Palestinian movement Fatah traded fire with police and shut election offices in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday in a new challenge to President Mahmoud Abbas ahead of next month’s election. The gunmen demand changes to the latest proposed list of election candidates, which was due to be submitted by Abbas on Wednesday as a way to patch up a damaging split between Fatah veterans and younger rivals. The internal Palestinian squabbles, clashes with Israel, and the prospect of Israel’s own elections early next year have stalled any hopes of peacemaking in the near future. Militants spurned Abbas’s call for a halt to rocket fire against Israel which has provoked reprisal Israeli air strikes and a threat to declare a no-go zone in parts of the territory which it abandoned three months ago.
The growing violence has driven some officials to urge Abbas to postpone the election, in which Hamas Islamic militants stand to benefit from the confusion within long-dominant Fatah. Gunmen from Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades exchanged fire with police in Gaza City in an attempt to shut an election office. Staff took cover inside before police drove the militants off. Elsewhere, al-Aqsa fighters forced two offices to close.
“Our voices have been lost,” said Abu Zakariya, leader of the group that shut the Khan Younis office, demanding a re-run of party primaries or a postponement of the ballot itself.
At meetings in Gaza on Tuesday, Abbas tried to get militant leaders to agree to halt cross-border rocket fire and renew their pledge to follow a ceasefire that brought 10 months of relative calm. But a leader of Islamic Jihad, which has carried out suicide bombings despite the truce and fired regular rocket salvoes, said he did not believe there would be a ceasefire extension. “When the time is up there will be a general position, but calm will most likely not be extended,” said Khaled al-Batsh.
Unfortunately, the terrorists have the upper hand. If the government won’t control them, they have the potential to disrupt the peace process on their own. Further, by provoking retalliatory strikes by the IDF, they fuel increased hostility within their community against Israel. The ball remains in Abbas’ court.