Arutz-7 Ariel Kahane reported today on the increasing number of terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria: "Once again, as the diplomatic corridors come alive with activity, the level of terrorism rises in parallel. This time it's the Binyamin region, which surrounds Ramallah on several sides, that is taking the brunt of the terrorists' murderous designs."
Regional Security Coordinator Avigdor Shatz said that terrorist cells have once again arisen in several areas in Binyamin, but even though "Israeli intelligence already knows the names of the murderers [of Gideon Lichterman and Tzion David], and their whereabouts in the Mukata, the government is still preventing the forces from catching them." Shatz himself was seriously wounded in one of the Oslo War's worst terror attacks; it occurred on March 3, 2002, when a lone terrorist sniper standing amidst trees above an IDF checkpoint between Ofrah and Shilo fired isolated shots for 40 minutes, murdering seven soldiers and three civilians.
Lt.-Col. (res.) Evyatar Cohen, a member of the civilian security team of Ofrah, said that in the past month, the number of shooting incidents in the Binyamin region has gone up dramatically: "The number of Arab vehicles on the roads is increasing, the lack of attention to security violations and Arab chutzpah is increasing, and so is the number of victims - it all goes together. What we should be doing is not playing games with our lives, but exactly what the Americans did in Iraq - destroy the Mukata just like they did with Saddam's bunker."
He said that local residents have been talking with the IDF commanders about the rise in attacks, and about the "intolerable ease" with which the Arabs are able to drive freely around, "bypassing checkpoints on all sorts of side roads, getting in and out of Ramallah with no difficulty at all... and shooting at an Israeli driver, and within a minute disappearing into a crowd of Arabs waiting at a hitch-hiking station - which also shouldn't be there..."
Channel 10's Arab Affairs commentator, Tzvi Yechezkeli, explained to Arutz-7 today that the PA spokesmen who said they were "disappointed" with Powell's visit were merely going the same route as their predecessors:
"I don't ever recall a visit in the past by an American diplomat after which the Palestinians did not say that they were disappointed. They never say they're happy. They haven't even truly accepted the Road Map - and therefore it's not easy for them to hear Powell demand concrete anti-terror action from them."
Yechezkeli said that the public PA television station, which is still run by Arafat, showed pictures of crowds burning American and Israeli flags - while the rest of the world was seeing live coverage of the Powell-Abu Mazen meeting: "Arafat had no interest in showing how Abu Mazen is now the official PA leader in the world, hosting world leaders in the gala hotel in Jericho, etc. Don't forget that Arafat was the first one to say that the Powell-Abu Mazen meeting had failed… There's no doubt that he's trying to trip up Abu Mazen, and the terrorist attack yesterday was just another [of these attempts]. It's not a matter of someone actually giving an order to attack - but rather the 'atmosphere' of tolerance for attacks that exists there; and it's clear that it exists…"
Arutz-7's Haggai Segal asked, "Isn't there a fear that Dahlan will take strong action against terrorism?" Yechezkeli responded,
"No, no. Dahlan and others have always said that everything can be tolerated - up until the point of civil war. They might make some arrests and things like that, but they will certainly not fight against the terrorists the way that Israel would... There is a good chance that Hamas and Islamic Jihad will agree to 'cease their fire' for three months or so" - something that Israel has said is not sufficient.
Four Islamic Jihad and other terrorists were discovered this morning to have escaped the IDF's Ofer Base security compound. The four apparently dug an escape tunnel through which they made their getaway. IDF forces continue to man roadblocks and scour the area for the escapees, bringing Arab traffic to a crawl. It is assumed, however, that the four have already reached nearby Ramallah. Security officials say that the escapees do not have "blood on their hands." Hundreds of security prisoners are held in Ofer; two of them managed to escape last month by cutting a fence.