Israel Ups The Ante For Perpetrators of Terror Attacks

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:11 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israel sees its current military operation - including curfews on the Palestinian cities - as a "very effective" method of fighting terror despite two more attacks this week, a senior military official told She said the operation is likely to continue indefinitely.

Israel upped the ante in its war against terror overnight, when troops arrested the families of two militants suspected of involvement in this week's deadly attacks and destroyed their homes.

It is the first time during 22 months of trouble that Israel has held family members responsible for their relatives' actions.

Radio reports on Friday suggested that Israel was considering deporting more than 20 male relatives of the terrorists from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip if the legal obstacles could be overcome.

Israel accused Nasser A-Din Mustafa Assida, a Hamas militant, of being responsible for the ambush of a civilian bus at the entrance to the settlement of Immanuel on Tuesday. He's also suspected of arranging a similar attack in the same place seven months ago, in which 11 people were killed.

Yocheved Ben-Hanan, 21, became the ninth victim of this week's attack when she died of her wounds on Thursday.

Ali Muhamad Ahmad Ajouri, a member of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction, is blamed for Wednesday's double suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, in which an Israeli and two foreign workers were killed.

"[Israeli] troops arrested several men, relatives of the two terrorists directly involved in the two terror attacks in Immanuel and in Tel Aviv," the army spokesman said in a statement. "The forces also demolished the houses of the two terrorists."

Palestinian sources were quoted as saying that 22 people had been made homeless by the demolitions.

The mayor the village of Tel, where Assidi's father's home was demolished, was quoted as asking, "Why are the Israelis punishing the fathers for the actions of their sons?"

"The demolition of the terrorists' houses and those of their dispatchers is [designed] to make the terrorists aware of the price of their actions, thus attempting to prevent additional terror attacks," a military source said.

Dovish Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said that if the legal hurdles to deporting the families of terrorists could be jumped, he favored deporting them to the Gaza Strip.

Asked if he supported the deportations in a radio interview, he said, "As far as I know, it has undergone legal scrutiny, and if legally possible, yes."

Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein, who met with security officials on Friday to discuss the expulsions, said there could be no "blanket" deportations and only those linked to terrorist activity could be expelled.

He also opposed the arresting of family members of terrorists and demolishing their homes, Israeli radio reported.

In a statement sent to a news agency, Hamas warned that if Israel carried out the deportations it would perpetrate suicide attacks all over the country. (Hamas has already declared war on Israeli buses.)

Military Operation To Continue

Despite the two terror attacks that killed 12 people this week, a senior military official said Israel would continue its "Operation Determined Path" indefinitely in an attempt to destroy the terrorist infrastructure.

"We can't eliminate attacks," said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We can't close the territories hermetically, our ability is limited [but the operation] is very effective. We know we can't have 100 percent success."

Nevertheless, the official said that Israel had managed to stop and arrest 20 suicide bombers, who had already been launched into action, seven of them last weekend alone.

She also cited the Israeli capture of a car last Saturday, which was driving in Kalkilya during curfew at night with its lights off. The occupants of the vehicle fled when soldiers stopped the car, which was packed with 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of explosives.

"Unfortunately when we leave the Palestinian cities and encircle them, its much more difficult," she said. It is only a few kilometers for the Palestinians to walk to an Israeli city.

"The motivation [to carry out attacks] is huge," she said. There is also the possibility that the curfew on Palestinian cities is increasing that motivation due to the "enormous pressure" on the Palestinian society. Israel is trying to accommodate the people by allowing them longer breaks in the curfew, she said.

"Every time we lift the curfew, we're endangering our own people. [Our] war is not with the Palestinian people. It's a relentless war against Palestinian terrorists," she said.

According to the official, it will be a "long battle" unless Palestinian leaders realize they are not achieving any political gains from the violence.

President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell met with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia on Thursday to discuss moving the political process forward.

Prior to the meeting Bush said he would tell the leaders that the U.S. "refused to be discouraged. We are going to continue to work for peace. We need to push hard for peace, because we know it is in our vital interests."

Israel and the U.S. have demanded a complete halt to terrorism before negotiations on a final settlement can begin but Bush has also promised that the U.S. would back the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The Arab foreign ministers indicated that they believed Bush still backed a Palestinian state within three years. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, said Palestinian groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad were "working on a paper that has all the conditions that they will subscribe to for stopping the fighting."

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad reject a negotiated settlement with Israel.

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