Amid urgent warnings that Hamas terrorists are planning a mammoth attack to be carried out in Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is scheduled to meet again with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to discuss an “agreement of principles” that would form the basis for a final status settlement.
The deputy director of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) told the Cabinet on Sunday that Hamas leaders in Damascus have ordered their followers in Judea and Samaria to carry out a large-scale terror attack in Israel. His statement confirms previous reports that Hamas has become a growing threat to the control of Abbas’s Fatah faction over PA areas in Judea and Samaria. Fatah was routed from Gaza in a violent coup by Hamas forces in June.
The orders to attack are also intended to undermine diplomatic efforts by Olmert and Abbas to reach an “agreement of principles” prior to an international Middle East summit scheduled to be held in November.
The two men are expected to meet Tuesday in Jerusalem as part of their ongoing push to settle the major differences between Israel and the PA before the rest of the international community becomes more intensely involved in the process.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is slated to arrive in the region for a meeting with Abbas in September in preparation for the summit. Prime Minister Olmert previously said he would not engage in "final status" talks for a new PA Arab state. Final status talks at this point would contradict the U.S. Roadmap plan, which calls first for the setting of temporary borders. The Prime Minister has avoided the term "final status," using instead "agreement of principles" to describe the plan he and Abbas are crafting.
A special Knesset session has been called for next Tuesday at the request of 25 MKs who claim Olmert has no mandate to engage in final-status talks at this time.
Abbas’s rival Fatah faction has received generous financial, military and other support from Israel, the U.S. and other international sources since its “divorce” from Hamas in June. The PA unity government led by the two terror organizations dissolved in the wake of Hamas’s bloody takeover of Gaza at that time, while Fatah retained control of PA areas in Judea and Samaria.
Hamas political advisor Ahmad Yousef was cagey about the group’s orders from Damascus, saying in an interview with Ha'aretz, “There is no change in the Hamas position. Israel is threatening us and attacking us – we are only responding to provocations.” Yousef added, "We do not intend to initiate any action such as the resumption of suicide bombings,” but his counterpart in Gaza, spokesman Fawzi Barhum, refused to confirm or deny the Shin Bet report.
Gaza - More Explosive
The Israeli intelligence official, identified only as Y., warned the Cabinet that there has also been a sharp increase in the amount of explosives and other weapons brought into Gaza.
In the two months since the Hamas takeover, said Y., smugglers have managed to bring in more than 40 tons of explosives - half of the total amount brought in since Israel's army stopped patrolling the Gaza-Egypt border in 2005. Almost a third of the summer’s illicit haul, 13 tons, has been “imported” into Gaza this month.
The Shin Bet official also noted that there has been a rise in terror incidents lately: Last week there were 56 incidents of shooting and rocket fire, an increase from the 43 attacks that occurred in the previous week.