Jerusalem, 14 April 2002

Cabinet Communique
At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), April 14, 2002:

1. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon opened the Cabinet meeting by welcoming the new Cabinet Ministers, David Levy, Yitzhak Levy and Efraim Eitam; the Prime Minister wished them success in their work.

2. Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer briefed the Cabinet on the course of operation Defensive Shield relating specifically to the results of the operation and their implications. Furthermore, he also related to the situation on the northern border and Hizbullah’s terrorist activities.

Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer noted that the IDF take-over of Nablus and Jenin was completed over the past days, and searches had begun in the areas. The Defense Minister noted that the fighting in Jenin was difficult, and 23 soldiers fell in the course of the battles. The hard core of the terrorists surrendered at the conclusion of the battles, and a number of very senior Islamic Jihad leaders from Jenin were arrested.

With regard to the lies being spread to the effect that there was a massacre in Jenin and hundreds of bodies were rolling in the streets or buried in mass graves, the Defense Minister said that the IDF investigated and found that there were only dozens killed in Jenin and not the hundreds that appeared in the press, and the vast majority of them bore arms and fired on our forces.

Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer and Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Shaul Mofaz listed the IDF’s achievements in damaging the terror infrastructure during the operation, and noted, among other things, that around 1,200 people involved in terrorism have been arrested since the start of operation Defensive Shield, including many of the top wanted fugitives.

The IDF discovered and destroyed more than 20 explosives manufacturing laboratories in Nablus, explosives belts, bombs and seized large quantities of explosives and explosives raw materials.

The IDF collected more than 4,000 rifles, 800 pistols, 90 machine guns, and a number of RPG launchers, mortars, sniper rifles and other weapons. The IDF discovered 20 Kassam missile engines in a mosque in Ramallah.

In addition, the IDF collected documents that testify to the involvement of the PA, and Arafat personally, in terror.

Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer and Chief of Staff Mofaz discussed the murderous attacks that took place this week at Yagur Junction and the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem.

3. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres briefed the Cabinet on Israel’s international diplomatic standing with an emphasis on its deteriorating situation in the European arena.

5. Prime Minister Sharon briefed the Cabinet on his meeting with US Secretary of State Colin Powell, and related to the subjects that were raised during the meeting.

Prime Minister Sharon noted that he emphasized possible solutions to the issue of the terrorists holed up in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem holding priests and others as hostages.

Prime Minister Sharon said that he emphasized to his guest that those involved in the murder of the late Minister Rechavam Ze’evy, as well as Fuad Shubaki, responsible for the financing of suicide attacks and the Karine A, must be handed over for trial in Israel according to agreements and Israeli law.

Prime Minister Sharon said that he outlined for his guest the diplomatic steps that he proposed that include: A regional conference, support of the Tenet document, the requirement for quiet in the field and then moving on to the Mitchell plan, a political process that includes a solution to the conflict in stages, an economic plan and aid to Palestinians not touched by terror and the need for immediate aid in the field.

6. With Remembrance Day for the fallen in Israel’s campaigns and Independence Day approaching, Prime Minister Sharon noted that much to his chagrin, more fallen from IDF activities in operation Defensive Shield who were murdered in terror attacks were added to the list of fallen in Israel’s campaigns.

Prime Minister Sharon wished the people of Israel and the members of the government a happy Independence Day.