Major General Aharon Zeevi Farkash
Head of the IDF Military Intelligence Corps
National Media Center, Jerusalem,
April 16, 2002
I am going to begin by trying to summarize the IDF activities against terror. At the center of the IDF’s activity, many terrorists in the direction and execution echelons have been arrested or killed. Of course, Marwan Barghouti is at the top of the list, and I want to say a few words about Marwan Barghouti.
He is 43 years old; he was jailed in Israel for several years. The visible public aspect of his activity: he is known as secretary of the Fatah supreme council in the West Bank; and the clandestine aspect: he is the commander of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades which is the Fatah terrorist arm. Marwan Barghouti’s involvement in terrorism is deep and extensive. He was in close personal contact with Arafat, and has apparently coordinated with him the terrorist activities. He directed, encouraged, financed and assisted the carrying out of terrorist attacks against Israel, including severe suicide attacks. I want to give you a few examples.
In recent months Marwan Barghouti has delegated responsibilities to his assistant Ahmed Barghouti, who was arrested together with him yesterday, who also directed and encouraged terrorist attacks. Now I want to say a few words about the implications of IDF activities for the continuation of terror. Of course, it is a short summary of what has happened in the last two weeks, and the results. We believe the terrorist infrastructure was dealt a severe blow, and it will take time before it returns to its previous dimensions. I want to present five points:
In the final account, one can’t ignore the fact that the IDF has undermined the Palestinian operational rationale, which sought to create a balance of blood and terror and to break Israel’s stamina and spirit. May I say that the last two and a half weeks, only 4% of the Israelis who were killed are civilians; the others are soldiers. The picture before our operation was completely different: 75% civilians, 25% Israeli soldiers.
Now I want to say a few words about the link between the PA and terror. The direct link between the Palestinian Authority and Arafat personally, in assisting and encouraging terrorism has been proven beyond any doubt. It has been clearly shown, also from the documents captured in the Palestinian headquarters, that the PA’s involvement in terror is based on the following three characteristics:
The first is the religious-ideological dimension. This gives legitimacy and encouragement to terrorist activities. The message that Arafat himself personally is issuing is addressed to three main target audiences: the Palestinians in the Palestinian Authority areas, the Arab world, and the Israeli Arabs.
In this context, I want to give you an example of a public statement that we found that was issued by the PA liaison committee for Israeli Arabs which operates from Arafat’s bureau within the Palestinian Authority to Israeli Arabs. This public statement was published on September 30, 2001, with the logo of the Palestinian Authority in the President’s bureau, to mark the first anniversary of the intifada. The statement is concerned primarily with the incitement of Israel’s Arabs to take part in the violent events. This statement is full of expressions of hatred for Israel and its citizens, which it calls – and I quote – "20th century plunderers, murderers of children, women and the old, instigators of international terror, robbers of lands," etc. The statement reflects the absence of any willingness on the part of Arafat and the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel’s right to exist. The statement reflects their aspiration to establish one homeland belonging, in their perception, to one people, one Palestine soil, with Jerusalem as its capital. We find similar expressions of hatred and incitement in the Palestinian Authority’s educational system, in their media, their literature and in various Palestinian cultural symbols.
The second dimension is financial. This is systematic, institutionalized, ongoing financing, written and signed by Chairman Arafat himself, with large sums of money given to Fatah terrorist infrastructures and operatives – this, while the civilian apparatus of the Palestinian Authority is collapsing and the Palestinians are suffering from extreme economic crisis.
And, finally, the practical dimension. This is direct involvement of senior Palestinian Authority officials in the smuggling and transfer of arms to terrorist elements, the masterminding of attacks, and the involvement of major and junior echelons in carrying out the attacks.
Finally, I want to say a few words about the confrontation with the Palestinian Authority and their main trends. The negative component of Arafat’s aspirations has not changed, and we believe these components will continue. He doesn’t feel weak, and, as tragic as this might be for his own people, he perceives his achievements as good. In our assessment, Arafat has passed the point of no return as regards his willingness to act against terror.
About the willingness component: he doesn’t want to stop the terror, to stop the jihad. About his capability to stop the terror, to stop the jihad: Arafat can act, today or tomorrow, in the West Bank; he can stop the financing of terror. Without financing, the terror will stop. The security infrastructure in the West Bank can be reconstructed. At the moment, a security vacuum has developed in those cities in which we acted during the last two weeks. But we don’t see any problem in the Gaza strip, in Jericho, in Hebron and in other places where we didn’t act. And in any case, we believe there was enough time for Arafat to act in these places, up until two and a half weeks ago, to stop terror.
I remember only two instances that leaders in the Middle East acted against camps and cities with Palestinians. [The first] was in Haleb and Hama, in Syria, in 1982, by Assad, the father of Bashar, where more than 20,000 citizens were killed. And the second was in September 1970, the "Black September" in Jordan. King Hussein understood the threat against his own kingdom, and he entered into the Palestinian camps. So there was enough time, in the years 1999, 2001, 2000, 1996, and 1995, to act against the Palestinian infrastructure being built by the Palestinian Authority. It was enough time. No one acted against these infrastructures.
To summarize this point, terror has already been renewed with our pullback from Tulkarm and Kalkilya, and it will intensify with our departure from other cities. But the deterrent factor for the future should not be underestimated. Today, it is sufficiently clear to the Palestinians that, in the event of another cycle of murderous terror, Israel’s reaction will probably be several times harder and more injurious than it was before. This provides a deterrent effect in the medium and long term. I don’t believe this will work immediately, when we pull back from the cities.
Questions and Answers:
Q: Marwan Barghouti has had some experience with Israeli intelligence interrogations. Is he cooperating?
A: It’s only the beginning. We have to give him time.
Q: You said that in the areas that were entered by the IDF, the security infrastructure which existed – I presume you meant the Palestinian security infrastructure, or the Palestinian police, preventive security – all those organizations are no longer functional. If that is the case, how can you contemplate withdrawing from areas where you know a vacuum already exists, and you don’t know who will fill that vacuum?
A: First of all, we know that all the services – water, electricity, and everything else – work; also food – we know there is no problem of food in the cities. We know that there is a vacuum. I believe the vacuum, at the beginning, will be filled maybe by the Tanzim – by Marwan Barghouti’s organization. Now the situation is bad, but it is better than it was before, because the infrastructure is weaker than it was in the past. No one fought terror before that. The Tanzim exerted their rule in every place, in every camp as it wanted. Now their ability is weaker then the past.
Q: I also like to follow-up on this question. You talked about their security vacuum, and you also said that in Jericho and other cities which are not occupied by the IDF, the security apparatus is functional. Do you envisage that the Palestinians should transfer part of their security apparatus from this area to the areas where there is a security vacuum in order to combat their recent organizations?
A: We don’t know how they will manage after our pullback, but I have to say that there wasn’t for us any other choice than to stop the terror. 129 Israeli citizens were killed in March – more than a quarter of [the total number] of 470. We haven’t stopped the terror; but it was our duty, as an army to defend ourselves. It wasn’t a pleasure for us, taking more than 20.000 reserve forces from their homes, from their work, and bringing them into the army to assist the ordinary army to fight terror. The Palestinians now have to digest what happened in the last two weeks, and maybe they will think twice.
Q: You talked about time. I wonder how long it will take for these militant groups to rebound from the Israeli operation? The second question is, to what extent have Palestinian security agencies been disarmed; in other words, of the 30,000 or 40,000 guns that they received, how many of them have you collected from the security agencies?
A: We do not know exactly how many arms they have. According to the agreement with the Palestinian Authority when we signed the Oslo agreements, it was, if I remember correctly, only 15,000 rifles. We found more than 3,000-4,000, and we are sure that they have more than 30,000-40,000; we don’t know how many they have. We are happy that the Karine A arms ship was captured.
We know that they have their own ability to build the infrastructure for making terror. We, the first years of our independence, exported oranges and grapefruits, and now high-tech. They produce terror in the schools, and they manufacture arms and explosives in every possible place. This is the system. A child four years old is trying to build a bomb; we found suicide bombers 15 years old, 14 years old; this is how they educated their people. We are asking the same questions that people in the world are asking: what is the education today in Saudi Arabia, in Egypt and other places. This is the problem; we are living here together with them. It is terrible to see this clash between their civilization and our civilization.
Q: You said, first of all, that 3,000-4,000 guns have been confiscated?
A: I have the exact numbers, if it is important to you – about 4,280.
Q: And you said you believe that they have 30,000 or 40,000?
A: At least!
Q: How long will it take for these groups to rebound from the Israeli operation?
A: We are going to pull out from the cities. If Arafat will say to his people: stop terror, and and if they will hear him say this and they will stop terror – nothing will happen. We don’t want to live there, in Nablus, in Jericho, in Hebron and in Gaza; it is their place. It is very simple. In September 2000, they decided to reject the offer of more than 97% of the territory made by Ehud Barak as the Prime Minister of Israel. This is a terrible fight which we have been waging for one and a half years. We only react; and sometimes our reaction is very strong, because of the circumstances.
Q: Colonel, I would love to hear your understanding of why there was such fierce resistance in Jenin refugee camp? Was there any one particular Palestinian leader there who organized the resistance, as far as you know? And could you explain to us how that battle unfolded? What was the course of events in the Jenin refugee camp?
A: As far we know, they are leaders of Tanzim in Jenin. Basically, the leadership in every place fighting against the IDF was the Tanzim, not the Hamas. The Hamas – we didn’t find them. It was very difficult to find the Hamas, and, from the captured leadership, only about 25% are from the Hamas. The fight was led by the Tanzim. The order given by Chairman Arafat was to fight in every place. His resistance in the Mukata’a in Ramallah should serve as an example for everyone. There are places where they fought against us and there are places where they preferred not to fight. In Jenin, there was a decision to fight. There are also places where high leaders of the Tanzim didn’t want to give up; they preferred to die as shahids, as martyrs; so they put together groups of soldiers, with suicide bombers, live suicide bombers, and because of that, it was a fight. Out of 29 soldiers that were killed during this operation, 23 were in Jenin. It was a real fight. Basically, I have to say that the people killed there were terrorists and not civilians. I cannot be sure exactly what are the results, but we are speaking about dozens. No more than dozens.
Q: How many armed Palestinians do you think you were facing in that camp?
A: Hundreds. Basically, we don’t fight unarmed forces. We don’t fight. No one from our forces will put a rifle to the target of an unarmed people. We captured a lot of them. Lately, they gave themselves up, and I don’t remember the exact numbers, but more than 200 or 300 we captured.
A: Yes, surrendered. I have to say, I tried to find maybe the best solution how to fight terror, with a high morality as the IDF, maybe the highest in the world. And I learned something from Donald Rumsfeld. Please give me the opportunity to read it. "Let there be no doubt. The responsibility for every single casualty in this war, be they innocent Afghans or innocent Americans, rests at the feet of the Taliban and Al Qaida" – or in our case rests at the feet of the Palestinian Authority and Arafat. "Their leadership are the ones that are hiding in mosques and using Afghani civilians" – or Palestinian civilians – "as human shields, by placing their armor and artillery in close proximity to civilian schools and hospitals and the like. When the Taliban" – may I say when the Palestinian Authority – "issues accusations of civilians casualties, they indict themselves. We did not seek this way, this war. It was thrust upon us. It is a matter of self-defense." Since October 29, 2001.
So these are the rules. I have to say, our rules are very, very close to this, maybe the most moral rules that I am familiar with in the modern and western armies in the world.
Q: You say that there is a clearly proven link between President Arafat and terrorism. Why did the IDF arrest Marwan Barghouti and does not arrest Yasser Arafat, as he seems to be accused of being the mastermind behind terrorism?
A: The decision about Chairman Arafat is a political decision. So this is not an answer that I have to give you. I believe we arrested Marwan Barghouti because he is the head of the Al Aqsa Brigades, and he dealt directly with terror, conducted terror, as I mentioned before.
Q: Palestinian spokesmen have been saying for the past 24 hours, Saeb Erekat and others, that the IDF has destroyed the Palestinian security apparatus, and what does Israel expect to happen now that there is no security apparatus to clamp down on the terrorists? Secondly, could you elaborate on how great a blow Barghouti’s arrest is to the terrorist infrastructure?
A: About the Palestinian apparatus: We didn’t fight the apparatus. In every place, we surrounded the places, we called them by megaphone, and everyone with hard evidence that he is a part of the Palestinian apparatus and he didn’t fight us, we let him go. In hundreds, we let them go, if they didn’t fight. If he is a part of the apparatus, for example of Dahlan or Jibril Rajub’s apparatus, then he is supposed to fight terror. If he is going to fight against us, we will try to capture him, and if necessary will kill him. But we gave everyone the opportunity to give up. Some more of them we captured, we asked them questions what they are doing, etc., and we let them go free.
Q: Could you elaborate on Barghouti – How great a blow is this to the apparatus?
A: I believe this is also psychological influence. Fighting terror, we have to be determined to seize any target that deals with terror. It was also our aim to take Marwan Barghouti alive, and we succeeded, because we believe that we have to learn the systems in order to be more effective in fighting terror. What will be the political effect, this is not a question that I have to answer now.
Q: [in Hebrew, about effect of arrest of Barghouti]
A: The arrest could increase the hatred and the desire for revenge.
And, accordingly, we have to be very careful right now. On the other hand, the IDF’s determination to fight terror, no matter who is perpetrating it, or at what level, to fight to the end, is very important and, in the long term can build up an important deterrent force in the war against terror. I hope that terrorists will think twice now before carrying out attacks.
Q: Does Barghouti’s arrest have consequences mainly so far as Palestinian morale is concerned, or also operational implications – that we will be able to prevent terrorism more easily now?
A: A country that seeks peace and security cannot allow terrorists to roam freely. It has to ensure that terrorists are put on trial, in accordance with international democratic standards, so that those with blood on their hands are punished. This resolve is essential, as is our determination to ensure that the killers of the [late Minister] Rechavam Ze’evy be extradited and dealt with in the appropriate manner. We want to demonstrate that we have had enough of terrorism. My son is a reservist, in a combat unit, and I do not want him to become the next casualty of the terrorists. This also goes for women who are sitting in a cafe. We are not prepared to pay this price any longer. I must make one thing very clear: We will not be deterred any longer from fighting the terrorists. For peace and for the sake of our security, we are prepared to make sacrifices, and this deters the terrorists.
Barghouti is a symbol, and he serves as a model. He encourages the suicide bombers in his speeches. I would like to refer to the suicide bombers for a moment. According to extreme radical Islam, child sacrifice to God is encouraged (not orthodox Sunni Muslims – they are against this). What kind of God would have a father sacrifice his son to him? This is their education. Arafat calls for a million shahidim (martyrs) to go to Jerusalem. For this reason, we have to fight the terrorists, arrest Barghouti, and put him on trial.
Q: Tawfik Tirawi, Dahlan, Jibril Rajoub and Razi Jibali – Israel has accused these figures of carrying out terrorist attacks. Will they be arrested by Israel as well?
A: I don’t think this is the place to give details of operational intentions.
Q: Can you give us statistics of the amount of people killed in Jenin? How is the situation developing in the Nativity Church in Bethlehem?
A: (Hebrew) We do not know how many Palestinians were killed in Jenin. We estimate that dozens have been killed, but it is hard to give an accurate figure, because we do not want to endanger our soldiers in the counting of bodies. Some of these bodies are still booby-trapped. The explosive charge that killed ten of our soldiers was a human explosive charge. The Palestinian terrorist put his hands up, and as the soldiers approached him, he detonated a charge, which detonated other charges, killing ten soldiers and then an additional three soldiers. We have had to take precautions there to ensure that we do not experience further casualties through explosive charges. On Sunday and today, I know that journalists visited Jenin. There was a media pool on Sunday and today. We do not have a final number regarding the people killed there, for the reasons I have given, and I don’t want to put journalists or IDF soldiers in danger now that it is quiet, so that we can count the bodies. We have to do our work quietly and carefully.
Regarding Bethlehem, terrorists have seized control of the Church of the Nativity compound. We know their names. They have blood on their hands. They put explosive charges on the doors of the churches. This is a Church – a holy place of prayer for Christians. They have taken them [the Christians] hostage. To the best of my knowledge, the government of Israel has agreed to conduct negotiations, so that the terrorists do not remain in the area. They should leave – let them go to a third country. This would be acceptable to the government of Israel. We do not want to violate a holy place, whether it belongs to Judaism, Christianity or Islam. If there is a water shortage, we will supply water. If food is lacking, we will supply food. If a person is wounded, we will come to their aid. These are the facts. We heard this from a boy who fled the area. A priest described the situation to us.
Q: Will Mr. Arafat be arrested?
A: It is a political decision. I promise I will present my opinion to the Prime Minister when it’s needed.
Q: The Prime Minister said that the IDF would leave Nablus and Jenin within a week. Have the IDF received instructions on this, and f so, is this the end of the operation? Also, will the IDF respond more forcefully to terrorism?
A: We said at the outset that we would leave each place when we complete the operation. We informed the government of the areas where the operations were completed. When we receive the order, we will pull out within a matter of hours.
We did not enter Gaza; we did not enter Jericho; we did not enter Hebron. We have learned how to enter [the Palestinian cities] with extreme caution, so that civilian casualties are avoided, and to minimize IDF casualties. But we will be tough, precise and ruthless with every terrorist in each of these towns. I hope that we will improve with each event. I advise the other side to stop the terrorism, so that it will not be necessary for us to enter. It will be a lot easier.