The cabinet, during Sunday’s weekly session unanimously rallied around Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s decision to reject any negotiations with terrorists, with the prime minister releasing a statement to the press that talking with terrorists will just encourage the next hostage situation.
In his briefing to cabinet ministers, the deputy director of the Shin Bet explained that his assessment is that the longer the northern Gaza counter-terror operation continues, the more the pressure will increase on Palestinian Authority (PA) civilians, which he explained will work to Israel’s advantage. He stated that doing so will result in PA residents pressuring the Hamas-led administration to release the soldier even if it means lowering the demands for his release.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz stated that when Shalit is released, the IDF’s offensive would be immediately halted, sending a clear message to PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah that there would be no talks and no prisoner exchange deals made.
Other intelligence community assessments stated that Haniyah is continuing to call on the United Nations and European community to condemn Israel’s ongoing operation, hoping increased international pressure on Jerusalem will force Israel’s hand – hoping this will bring an end to the major operation known as “Summer Rains/Bashan Oaks.”
Israel has announced the operation is open-ended, and it will continue until such time Kassam rocket attacks against Israel’s civilian communities in the south are halted and Corporal Shalit is released. Shalit was taken hostage during a multi-pronged terror attack in Kerem Shalom, during which time anti-tank rockets and automatic weapons fire were directed at IDF positions on June 25th. An officer and a soldier were killed in that attack, and others wounded, including Shalit. Rumored reports indicate that Shalit has received treatment for his abdominal and shoulder injuries and he is believed held in the Khan Yunis area of southern Gaza.
On the Kassam front, rocket attacks against civilians in southern Israel continue, which on Sunday morning resulted in the injuring of a number of people when one projectile slammed into a Sderot home. Other rockets were launched on Sunday and during the night, but fortunately, no injuries resulted.
Senior IDF commanders also explain that the Hamas terrorists are intentionally basing themselves in civilian population centers in Gaza, realizing this will increase the number of casualties among PA residents, once again hoping to turn up the heat against Israel on the international scene. Peretz and other officials explain IDF troops are conducting themselves on the high moral standard demanded by Israel, rejecting any criticism of violating human rights law and international law, with Peretz last week stating this counter-terror operation is being conducted on a standard above that of any army in the world. Nevertheless the United Nations Human Rights Committee has condemned Israel, blaming Jerusalem of trampling the rights of PA citizens.
It is believed that Israel does not know the precise location where Shalit is being held, for if intelligence community officials were able to track him down, an operation to release him from captivity would have surely been ordered. Efforts have focused on preventing terrorists from transferring him out of Gaza, into Egypt, realizing that this would permit terrorists to transfer the soldier to Lebanon, Syria or Iran.
On the Homefront, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz has ordered stepped up security on the nation’s buses and other precautions have been taken as the intelligence community continues to issue credible warnings of planned terror attacks.
A number of car bombs and suicide bombers were apprehended in the last week as they made their way towards pre-1967 Green Line Israel, as terror organizations continue tenacious efforts to perpetrate a ‘quality’ attack against Israel.
For residents of Sderot and western Negev communities, they seek relief, demanding the IDF increase the aggressiveness of the operation, explaining the daily rocket attacks have not halted. In addition, using the improved longer-range rockets, terrorists during recent weeks have succeeded in landing rockets deeper into Israel, striking targets in Ashkelon.