For the last year and a half Israel has been under terrorist attack. However, for the last few weeks, Israel has been facing unprecedented, massive terror attacks. To counter these, the IDF has launched several counter-terrorist operations in the West Bank, and is taking action in places where the PA should be controlling terrorism but has failed to do so.
The IDF is holding a few key points in Tulkarm, Kalkilya, and Bethlehem, and last night extended its operation to Ramallah.
The IDF has entered Ramallah in order to act as a wall between terrorism and Israeli citizens. Last week Israel sustained large numbers of casualties, and will not bear to do so any longer. It is the IDF’s job to guard and protect the citizens of Israel.
Ramallah is a hot-bed of terrorism. The lynching of two reserve soldiers in Ramallah, with Palestinian policemen watching, illustrates this fact. So too do numerous other terrorist attacks planned and carried out from Ramallah (including the fatal bombing at the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem).
El Amari in southern Ramallah, for example, is a strong base of terrorism. Two women suicide bombers were trained there. Several bomb factories were found there as well, along with bombs, machine guns, rifles, pistols and a huge cache of ammunition.
The IDF will act anywhere where there is terror, and will stay there until someone else (i.e the P.A) stops it.
The IDF does not want to harm innocent people, but will stay in Ramallah as long as it takes to prevent further terrorist attacks.
Question and Answers
Q: LA Times: What kind of resistance did the IDF encounter in Ramallah?
A: Palestinians opened fire in a few areas, and the IDF fought back. Some Palestinian gunmen were killed and several others were wounded. We have no exact numbers, because the fighting still continues. We gave the PA and the Palestinian police a chance by warning them in advance not to engage us, because our purpose is not to act against the PA but against the terrorist infrastructure. However, the PA put up resistance.
We will go from house to house and lab to lab to strike against terror. Last night, Palestinians resisted by using anti-tank missiles, snipers, and light weapons against the IDF force.
All Palestinian security organizations (who were given arms by Israel for defense purposes) are part of the terrorist infrastructure that fights against Israel.
Q: NPR: Can you comment on Arafat’s location? Can he leave his headquarters?
A: Nothing has changed in the policy with regards to Arafat. We are not acting against Arafat’s compound or against his chambers in Ramallah. We are acting all around Ramallah, but we are not targeting the PA.
Q Chicago Tribune: Is the latest IDF’s strategy effective in preventing terrorism?
A: The IDF is not fighting against civilians. It is not IDF policy to harm civilians unnecessarily. However, since the refugee camps have become the centers of terrorist infrastructure, we have no choice but to operate in these areas.
For a year and a half, the IDF has restrained itself from using its full force and it is only in the past weeks that we have started to penetrate the refugee camps in an attempt to stop the terror. Kassam rockets and many other weapons were found in the refugee camp in Balata as well as the camp in Tulkarm, for example. These are not the tragic camps that the world makes them out to be. They are home to the terrorist infrastructure. The IDF gives civilians the option to leave.
Q: Knight-Ridder: Could you tell us the amount of weapons seized, along with their types, as well as the precise number of arrests you have made?
A: Hundreds of weapons were uncovered, along with explosives and weapon-making laboratories. We get solid intelligence about where to find these weapons; we do not just stumble over them by accident.
As for arrests, initially hundreds of suspects were arrested and questioned, but the majority were then released. Dozens of terrorists, those at the core of terrorism in these camps, were detained and are now under investigation. Q: Coriera dell Sera: Was it a good idea to put numbers on the arms of the arrested Palestinians? And why is Ramallah closed to the foreign press?
A: This incident in no way reflects IDF policy. The incident was a mistake. Do not even attempt to make cynical comparisons between the terrible tragedy of the Jewish people, the Holocaust, and some pencil markings made on the arms of some of the Palestinians. It was a small mistake made by a few soldiers, but it is absolutely not Israeli policy.
To answer the second question, Ramallah is not safe for reporters. You, the media, have complained time and again that the IDF shoots at journalists, so we have decided that for now, it is too dangerous for journalists. We cannot have journalists and cameramen running around the dangerous streets of Ramallah with cameras looking like RPG launchers. As you know we never open fire on people without reason, and we want to keep you alive. We understand the importance of the presence of media, and as soon as the area is safe enough, we will lift the closure. It is only temporary.
Q: Frankfurter Allgemeine: You claim that numbering people was a tactical mistake, but this is not the first time that this has occurred. I remember it happened in the first intifada, as well. How do you think those with real numbers on their arms feel about this incident?
A: As I said before, this is really a very minor event. It happened only in the Bethlehem area, and as I said, it is not reflect IDF policy. I would like to see how other armies act in densely populated areas. No other army takes as many precautions not to hurt civilians as the IDF does.
Q: Frankfurter Allgemeine: How can the threat of Kassam missiles be fought other than by storming factories in camps?
A: Kassam missiles kill people. They are not smart weapons but they kill people. We are in the process of searching out missile factories and destroying them. We have good examples of the damage that Kassam missiles can do: Last week two little girls in Sderot were injured by a Kassam attack and another girl was in the hospital for shock.
Q: Reuters: Can you give me the exact numbers of arrests made and weapons seized? How many bomb factories were uncovered?
A: No, I cannot give you exact numbers at this time, but I can tell you that the amount of terrorists detained is in the dozens. They are currently under investigation.
As for weapons, hundreds have been discovered along with about 10-20 weapon-making laboratories which have subsequently been destroyed. Every few hours we find another one. We have so far found over 20 Kassam missiles during our searches in Gaza and the West Bank.
Q: Media Line: As you conduct your searches are you becoming aware of one terrorist group being more dominant than another, or in which regions various terrorist groups are based and more active?
A: Israel gave all official Palestinian security organizations weapons under certain agreements. The world knows the threat posed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad who are recognized as being part of International Terrorism. But Israel faces another terrorist organization; the Fatah Tanzim. They are a part of the Palestinian system. They are an official branch of PA militia under direct Arafat control. In the past only Hamas and the Islamic Jihad perpetrated attacks against Israelis inside Israeli territory. By also launching the Tanzim against Israel, the Palestinian side is launching an all-out effort against Israel.
Q: Israel Radio: How long will this operation take? Will it be finished before the visit of Anthony Zinni to the area?
A: I am not a politician, I act as a military officer, and we will continue to act as a wall between Israelis and terror until the government decides that we should stop doing so. We still have a lot to do.
Q: Why can’t we risk our lives by going to Ramallah if we want to? It is our job, we get payed for it. Also, can you tell us why hospital patients were told over loudspeakers to leave the hospital. They didn’t, but nothing happened. Can you comment on this?
A: I don’t have any knowledge of this incident. I have not heard anything about loudspeakers telling people to leave hospitals. I will check the details.
As for risking your own lives, we the IDF were under attack from you the journalists about Israeli policy against the media. This cannot continue forever. Last night journalists were under fire in a hotel in south Ramallah. We are responsible for you and we have decided not to let you enter for safety reasons.
I was just informed that terrorists have entered Kibbutz Metsuba killing and injuring several people. The incident is still underway.
IDF forces operating in the eastern side of Ramallah have identified a suspicious vehicle containing a mortar bomb and a launcher. The IDF force pursued the vehicle until they were 150 meters from Manara Square. The force fired a tank shell towards the vehicle, and afterwards proceeded to leave the area.Contrary to the claims made, IDF forces are not currently in the area of Manara Square.