Tags: Israel | Demolishes | Palestinian | Authority | Buildings

Israel Demolishes Palestinian Authority Buildings

Thursday, 10 January 2002 12:00 AM

An Israel Defense Forces spokesman said he believed the troops destroyed some 10 dwellings near Rafah, at the southern tip of the Gaza Strip, near the border with Egypt.

The latest cycle of violence began Wednesday when two gunmen crossed into Israel and killed four soldiers, before the two suspected Palestinian militants were killed by Israeli forces.

A militant wing of Hamas claimed responsibility for that attack, but Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said his administration considers "the Palestinian Authority fully responsible for what happened."

In Washington, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Wednesday's attack was, "particularly disturbing because it came at a time when the situation on the ground had been relatively quiet."

The United States has been working "to help the parties achieve a durable peace," he noted.

Fleischer said the incident was "a direct attack on the authority of Chairman Arafat."

President George W. Bush believes it continues to be incumbent on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat "to take immediate steps to arrest terrorist leaders and to dismantle the terrorist network that is present in the region," the spokesman added.

On Wednesday night the Israelis demolished two Palestinian positions opposite "Africa," the code name for a sand mound on the Israeli side of the border where the soldiers were killed. The Israel Defense Forces spokesman said the attackers passed through those Palestinian positions on their way to cut the electronic border fence and penetrate Israel.

The Israelis also closed three naval police installations on Gaza's coast. The Palestinian navy was caught trying to smuggle a shipload of rockets, mortars, mines, explosives and guns that were to be dumped off the coast in pressurized containers and towed ashore by small vessels.

Palestinian eyewitnesses said about a dozen Israeli army tanks and two bulldozers drove into the "Block O" area of the Rafah refugee camp where the two Hamas militants had resided. Several homes were demolished there, included the militants' homes, the sources said.

More than 100,000 Palestinian refugees live in the camp.

The IDF spokesman said the force demolished several structures that provided cover for people who fired at Israeli troops in the area. The spokesman said they suspected the structures also provided cover for tunnels used for the arms smuggling.

On Tuesday, Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said the Palestinians smuggle the arms from Egypt in 14-meter-deep tunnels.

The IDF spokesman said the operation was carried out in an area the Oslo accords define as the "area of military installations" that is under full Israeli control.

Sharon said Wednesday that in a few days his government would have to reconsider its policy toward the Palestinian Authority in light of Wednesday's attack and the capture of an estimated $10 million in arms and explosives on a ship in the Red Sea last Thursday the Israelis say was destined for the Palestinian Authority. The PA has denied any connection to the shipment, but the ship's captain Omar Akawi confirmed he was to transfer it to smaller vessels that would carry it to the PA.

The Israeli military chief of General Staff, Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, said, "Whoever thought we are in a quiet period understands today that the Palestinian moves (to cease attacks) were only make-believe ... They are not real and there is no serious intention behind it nor an effort."

Wednesday's attack occurred at about 4:30 a.m. when two Palestinians disguised as police, crossed into Israel and attacked the "Africa" army post near Kibbutz Kerem Shalom on the Israeli side of the Gaza Strip border and near the Egyptian border.

Masked men declared over loudspeakers that the Hamas armed wing Izel Dein Al Kassam carried out the attack in revenge for what they described as "Israeli crimes on our people."

The Palestinian Authority condemned the Hamas attack, saying in a statement, "It gives Sharon the excuse to resume his aggression and collective punishments on our people.

"The Palestinian Authority is not going to take the whole subject lightly. It is obvious that the attack was a violation of the Palestinian consensus and the cease-fire declaration," the PA statement said. "Very tough measures would be taken against those who are behind the attack."

Sharon on Wednesday rejected the Palestinian Authority's condemnation of the Kerem Shalom attack and its plans to investigate the matter.

"We're tired of condemnations, promises, declarations," he told reporters. "All these words ... there is nothing to them. We are talking about an empire of lies ... the test is not in talking but in deeds," he said.

In other developments, a Hamas leader said Wednesday that despite the Palestinian militant group's decision to halt suicide attacks on Israel, it would continue its armed struggle against the Jewish state.

"We will keep on saying that 'Palestine is an Arab nation' and 'no to the Zionist entity,'" said Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal during a conference in Beirut, Lebanon, attended by dozens of Muslim religious leaders.

"Our strategic option is resistance ... we will not relinquish an inch of Palestine," Mashaal added, referring to the Hamas attack near Kerem Shalom.

The Kerem Shalom attack came one day after Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said this week had been the quietest since the intifada began Sept. 28, 2000. Israel has insisted on seven quiet days before implementation of the Tenet work plan and the Mitchell Committee recommendations designed to lead to renewed negotiations.

Ben-Eliezer suggested Tuesday that the sides may soon begin implementing the Tenet plan. Army charts have shown a drastic drop in attacks in the Gaza Strip, to an average of two a day in recent days.

On Dec. 16, Arafat called for a halt to all armed and suicide bombings against Israel. According to Israeli army statistics, there were some 100 attacks in the Gaza Strip since then, though the number was gradually declining.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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An Israel Defense Forces spokesman said he believed the troops destroyed some 10 dwellings near Rafah, at the southern tip of the Gaza Strip, near the border with Egypt. The latest cycle of violence began Wednesday when two gunmen crossed into Israel and killed four...
Thursday, 10 January 2002 12:00 AM
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