Beyond Images - Briefing 14  Perspectives on the Arab-Israeli Conflict 
London - published Friday 23 August 2002

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"The Palestinians have not been given the chance to curb terror. Israel should give them the chance to stop the militant groups attacking Israeli targets".

Summary of Response

The Palestinian Authority has repeatedly either failed to act against terrorists, or released them from custody, only to carry out atrocities shortly afterwards. We set out three examples below - Hamas's leading bomb "engineer"; the bomber of Jerusalem's King George Street, and the bomber of the Park Hotel on Passover. Israel has paid very dearly for expecting the PA to act decisively against terror, and confidence can only be restored in a step-by-step process.

Israel has paid dearly for expecting the Palestinian security forces to act decisively against terror

  • For over 18 months, from the outbreak of the crisis in October 2000 until April 2002, Israel looked to the Palestinian Authority to prevent the activities of terrorists planning atrocities against Israeli citizens.

  • Over and over again, the Palestinians failed to act, leaving Israel with no choice but to act directly, firstly in Operation Defensive Shield (April 2002), and then in Operation Determined Path (June 2002 onwards).

  • Here are three cases (taken from reports in the Jerusalem Post newspaper) which illustrate why Israel cannot be expected to rely on the Palestinians to act to protect Israeli citizens:-

Muhammed Taher - Hamas master bomb-maker given freedom to operate by the Palestinian Authority

  • 26 year old Muhammed Taher was a leading bomb-maker in Hamas. Having been involved in a series of Jerusalem suicide bombings in 1997, he was arrested by the Palestinian Authority ("PA") in June 1998, at a time of regular Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation.

  • In October 2000 the PA released him as part of a general release of the most dangerous Hamas and Islamic Jihad members at the start of the second Palestinian intifada.

  • Since then, according to Israel, Taher has been involved in planning some of the worst suicide attacks in Israel including the Dolphinarium disco bombing (Tel-Aviv, June 2001) - 19 dead; the Haifa bus bomb (December 2001) - 16 dead; and the Gilo bus bomb (Jerusalem, June 2002) - 19 dead.

  • Over 140 Israeli citizens have died in terrorist attacks which Israel alleges were masterminded by Taher since his release in October 2000.

  • Taher is also alleged to have trained bomb-makers in assembling bomb-belts. He taught his "students" how to place screws, nails and pieces of metal inside suicide bomb belts to ensure maximum agony for the Israeli victims.

  • Taher was finally caught by Israeli forces in June 2002 near Nablus. When Israeli forces surrounded his hide-out, he resisted arrest, he and lieutenants started firing at Israeli forces, and he was killed in the resulting exchange.

  • Needless to say, the Palestinian Authority knew how dangerous Taher was to Israel, but took no steps to curb his activities. Their decision to release him in October 2000 makes them directly responsible for the trail of carnage which he caused.

Muhammed Hashaika - the suicide bomber of Jerusalem's King George Street

  • Muhammed Hashaika, a 22 year old former Palestinian policeman from a village near Nablus, was known to both Israeli and Palestinian security officials.

  • He was a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, which is directly linked to the Fatah movement, and was one of dozens of Palestinians whom Israel asked the PA to arrest in January 2002.

  • When the Palestinian Authority arrested him at that time, he was found with a suicide bomb belt in his possession, and stated that he planned to carry out a bomb attack on the Ra'anana shopping mall, north of Tel-Aviv.

  • After some weeks in custody, Palestinian security officials transferred him to Ramallah. Despite an assurance given by the PA to Israel that they would continue to hold him in custody, he was released in March 2002 as part of a so-called "general amnesty" of Palestinian prisoners.

  • A week later, on March 21 2002, Muhammed Hashaika struck.

  • Wearing a suicide bomb belt packed with nails and metal shards, he walked onto Jerusalem's King George Street, the main shopping street in the city, and blew himself up, killing three Israelis and wounding 80.

  • The release by the Palestinians of Hashaika broke a commitment to Israel and led directly to the attack that day.

Abdel-Bassat Odeh - the Passover night suicide bomber in Netanya

  • In February 2002 Israeli forces became seriously concerned about the plans of a 25 year old Palestinian, Abdel-Bassat Odeh, from a Palestinian refugee camp outside Tulkarem. It was feared that he was planning a suicide attack.

  • Shin Bet, the Israeli security service, gave his name to the Palestinian Authority in around early March, and demanded his immediate arrest.

  • No action was taken by the Palestinian Authority against Odeh during the following weeks.

  • On March 27, Odeh walked into the Park Hotel in Netanya and blew up 30 Israelis who were taking part in the traditional Passover evening festive meal.

  • Israel regards the Palestinian Authority as being responsible for that massacre, as it had failed to act to prevent the killer, even when warned by Israel that he was planning an atrocity.

Conclusions: the lessons from these events

  • The failures of the Palestinian Authority to act in the cases of Muhammed Taher, Muhammed Hashaika and Abdel-Bassat Odeh are not isolated failures, but reflect the continued Palestinian support and complicity in acts of extreme terror against Israeli civilians.

  • These three cases demonstrate that while the Palestinians have the means to curb the terror, they lack the political will to do so. This is despite the fact that the terror campaign has achieved nothing for their people but misery and the intensification of their plight.

  • Israel's military operations in the West Bank since April 2002 have to be seen against the background of such events.

  • Israel cannot afford to entrust the security of its citizens to Palestinian security forces which have demonstrated they are unwilling and unable to safeguard that security. Confidence can only be restored in a step-by-step process.

  • Hardly surprisingly, Israel has been left with no choice at present but to take direct responsibility for quelling the terrorism originating from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.


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