Nechama Douek, political affairs reporter for Yediot Acharonot, Israel's largest newspaper, reported that the senior official revealed Wednesday that the army would be instructed to take special care to prevent terrorism in the coming days.

The report states that the special activity is to take place, "in its first stage," up until Sept. 25 - the day the Likud Central Committee is to decide the date of the primaries. Sharon is very much against advancing the date of the primaries, in which his competitors - Binyamin Netanyahu and Uzi Landau - will try to unseat him as head of the Likud Party.

At present, the primaries are scheduled for April 2006.

The senior official is reported to have explained that terror attacks prior to the Likud convention will hurt Sharon's chances to persuade party members that the disengagement was worthwhile. "The security forces are always working against terrorism," he said, "but we will work even harder to prevent attacks in the coming period until the convention."

Reactions to the revelation were fast and furious:

• Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Yuval Shteinitz (Likud) asked Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to investigate the identity of the quoted official. "This information raises suspicion that the IDF is involved in internal Likud politics," Shteinitz said today, "and is unsurpassed in its gravity. The Defense Minister must convene a press conference immediately to deny the information and to promise the Nation of Israel that the considerations in activating the IDF are totally clean of political calculations."

• Journalist Uri Dan, a close friend of Ariel Sharon, attempted to rebut the charges on Israel Radio's "It's All Talk" program, but was cut off by hostess Ayalah Hason.

• MK Tzvi Hendel (National Union), who has often said that Sharon's impetus for the disengagement was to divert attention away from his family's criminal financial affairs, said, "This must shock the very foundations. It shows that even the IDF is afraid of the Sharon family's trampling nature. Instead of warning about the supportive wind that Sharon has granted to terrorism [via the disengagement], the IDF is helping him - because of the officers' fear of being fired - in internal party politics."

• MK Ehud Yatom, an opponent of Sharon's within the Likud, said, "The remarks by the Defense official indicate taking advantage of the IDF for political purposes - and a mortal blow at democratic values. This is the cornerstone of the establishment of a dictatorial regime in the State of Israel."

• The Defense Ministry and IDF released a statement noting, "The IDF will continue to fight terrorism with all the tools at its disposal at all times, with no connection to any political matter."