US Urges Restraint Following Fatah Terror Attacks

The United States has criticized Israel after restrictions were placed on the movements of Arabs in Judea and Samaria in the wake of Sunday’s terror attacks in Gush Etzion and at the Eli Junction.

Naomi Grossman & Nissan Ratzlav-Katz , | updated: 11:37 AM

In a message relayed by Lieut. Gen. William Ward, the US security envoy to the Middle East, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s office asked Israel to “take steps to ease the daily suffering of the Palestinians.” At the same time, Rice added that “Israel has the right to defend itself against terror” and that the Palestinians are also obliged to fight against it.

The IDF has taken a series of measures following the two attacks, in which three Israelis were killed and seven injured. Security forces in the Beit Lechem and Hevron areas have also been beefed up, and both cities have been encircled by an army presence. Roadblocks have been restored around Ramallah, Beit Lechem and Hevron. It was the removal of the blockades that facilitated the terrorists’ getaway on Sunday, providing them a clear escape route to nearby PA autonomous areas.

Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz also reversed an earlier decision to relax travel restrictions on PA residents. PA motorists are banned from driving on roads used by Israelis in private vehicles, a restriction that has proven effective in the war against terror.

PA leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is accusing Israel of inflaming the situation by renewing the roadblocks against PA motorists throughout Judea and Samaria.

At the same time, the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, associated with the Palestinian Authority leader's Fatah organization, has taken responsibility for the roadside shootings. According to Dr. Michael Widlanski, a specialist in Arab politics and communication, PA radio emphasized, "Both armed attacks were carried out by the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, which are part of the Fatah movement." No PA officials or media condemned the terrorist attacks, and an initial reaction by PA spokesmen denied Fatah involvement.

Al Aksa spokesman Abu Uday has denied reports that PA security forces have arrested two of the Brigades’ members in Beit Lechem, stating that the terror group has “good” relations with the PA security establishment. Members of the Brigades are included among Fatah’s list of candidates for PA parliamentary elections, due to take place in January 2006.

The terrorists responsible for the shooting attacks still remain at large, in spite of the military having sealed the area immediately following the attack and launching a manhunt. IDF officials are indicating that at this stage of the investigation, intelligence information will be the key factor in apprehending those responsible for the murders.