"This is crossing all red lines. Sharon is inviting hell to break loose." Saeb Erekat Palestinian "Cabinet Minister"
"Israel has not really begun to fight terrorism yet." Uzi Landau Israeli "Internal Security" Mininster
MID-EAST REALITIES © - MER - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 8/27: Normally we wouldn't quote Saeb Erekat as over the years he has lost nearly all credibility saying and doing all kinds of things that have made little sense other than to further his own VIP status while fronting for the inept and corrupt Arafat regime. Indeed this is not even the first time Erekat has made such a statement. That said, always looking for a microphone, Erekat is quoted this morning in this way in this Reuters newsflash article and indeed the situation has reached the point of "red lines". The Israelis are clearly planning to totally crush the Palestinians -- Minister Uzi Landau is publicly saying as much -- probably thinking they can buy themselves still more years to consolidate their grip on the occupied territories and probably scheming for the opportunity to push as many Palestinians as they can across the Jordan and into a Hashemite Kingdom that will eventually, sooner or later, implode into a Palestinian State. Meanwhile, as they have at other times in history, the Israelis -- this time with much help from the CIA after the Arafat regime invited it right into the midst of Palestinian areas and assigned top people to "coordinate" with it -- are removing top leaders, one after another one way or another, opposed to the Arafat regime and its ways and policies.
RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters - Monday August 27 6:13 AM ET ) - Israel assassinated the leader of a radical Palestinian faction in a missile strike Monday on the group's offices in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the faction said.
Abu Ali Mustafa, the 64-year-old head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), died when two missiles fired by helicopter gunships slammed into the offices in an apartment block after he took a phone call, they said.
Mustafa had the highest profile of anyone killed under Israel's policy of tracking and killing militants since a Palestinian uprising erupted in September. He became PFLP chief after longtime leader George Habash stepped down in July 2000.
``Abu Ali Mustafa was killed in the attack on the headquarters,'' a PFLP official told Reuters. ``He was in his office when the missile hit.'' Witnesses said the helicopter gunships had hovered overhead before firing the missiles through the window.
The army confirmed it had launched an attack against Mustafa. It said the PFLP has been behind a series of car bomb attacks since a Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation erupted last September after peace negotiations deadlocked.
The strike followed two days of tit-for-tat attacks in which seven Israelis and four Palestinians were killed.
Israel had earlier Monday reaffirmed its policy of hitting Palestinian security targets in retaliation for attacks on Israelis at an emergency meeting convened by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon following the surge in violence.
The Palestinians accuse Israel of assassinating about 60 people since the Palestinian revolt began. One official said Israel had now opened a new phase in the conflict.
``This is crossing all red lines. Sharon is inviting hell to break loose,'' Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat said.
``I believe Sharon's end game is to widen the cycle of violence and destroy the peace process. This is a new stage in Israel's war against Palestinians. First they destroy the infrastructure and now they kill Palestinian leaders.''
The PFLP, which is a faction in the Palestine Liberation Organization, has opposed peacemaking with Israel. It drew attention to the Palestinian struggle with a series of plane hijackings in the late 1960's and 1970's.
Sharon broke off a holiday at his desert ranch to fly to Tel Aviv for consultations with senior ministers earlier Monday.
Israeli warplanes, tanks and bulldozers flattened security posts in Palestinian areas Sunday after gunmen killed three soldiers in a raid on an army base in Gaza.
Palestinian gunmen also shot dead four Israelis, including a married couple and a merchant, in West Bank ambushes Saturday and Sunday.
The four Palestinians killed in the previous two days included the two gunmen who infiltrated the army base, a member of the security forces killed in a gunfight and a man whose body was handed over by Israel. It was not clear how he was killed.
Few details of the inner cabinet meeting were available. But Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Sharon, confirmed the ministers had agreed to continue the strategy of hitting Palestinian security installations in retaliation for attacks on Israelis.
``A majority of casualties and the greatest number of terrorist activity is conducted by members of the security forces of the Palestinian Authority. That is why we are hitting their headquarters,'' Gissin said.
Israeli newspapers reported that the cabinet had approved a new policy allowing the military to hit Palestinian security targets manned by security officials. The strikes in the past have been against mostly empty buildings. On a separate front, witnesses in Lebanon reported that Israel fired shells into southern Lebanon Monday morning. The Israeli army denied the report. At least 537 Palestinians, 153 Israelis and 14 Israeli Arabs have been killed in the 10 months of violence.
The latest violence has overshadowed attempts by Germany to mediate a meeting between Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres on a truce that was brokered by the United States in mid-June but has never taken effect.
Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper said the meeting might take place next week if fighting eased, although both sides have low expectations even if it goes ahead.
Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer also said Israel would continue retaliating for Palestinian attacks and killing Palestinian militants accused of carrying out or plotting attacks on Israelis.
``We will fight terror to the bitter end. No one can expect us to sit quietly and do nothing when you know two suicide bombers are on their way to carry out an attack,'' Ben-Eliezer told a gathering of the center-left Labor party.
The Palestinians denounced the Israeli attacks as ``ugly aggression'' which would make the situation more dangerous.
[The Jerusalem Post - Jerusalem - August 27] "Israel has not really begun" to fight terrorism yet, Internal Security Minister Uzi Landau said yesterday, calling for a continuous and systematic war on Palestinian terrorism.
"The war has to be be continuous until the terrorist infrastructure is completely wiped out," Landau told reporters, after addressing a group of US civil rights activists attending a seminar in Jerusalem yesterday sponsored by the American Jewish Committee.
Calling Palestinian terrorism "a deliberate attempt to eat away at the basic fabric and equilibrium of our society," Landau defended Israel's policy of "targeted killings" of terrorists.
"A suicide bomber is nothing more than a missile on two legs," Landau told the group of a dozen activists from various anti-hate groups in the US. "Our policy is to try and defuse the missile and intercept it before it is armed and launched," he said.
Landau argued that, in times of crisis, law and order must be guaranteed "more definitively than at any other time." Noting that the US has recently used cruise missiles in an effort to kill master terrorist Osama bin-Laden, suspended habeas corpus two centuries ago, and put Japanese-Americans under administrative detention during World War II, Landau said Israel must also continuously combat terrorism when confronted with it.
"The weak in the Middle East will never attain mercy. It is only with our ability to stand up and protect ourselves that we will in essence protect the peace agreements that have been signed," he said.
Telling his audience that Arab culture is not clearly understood in the West, Landau recalled Chamberlain's infamous policy of appeasement toward Hitler. "The idea that if you will only satisfy the aggressor with more and more concessions simply does not work. It will not suffice. He will demand more and more and more," he said.
The leader of the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine has been killed in an Israeli attack.
Palestinian sources say Abu Ali Mustafa died when at least two missiles struck his office in the West Bank town of Ramallah, not far from the offices of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Photo: PFLP spokesman Maher al-Taher Israel will pay a heavy price for its crime
Israeli military forces confirmed that they had carried out the attack, saying the missiles were fired by a helicopter gunship.
Mustafa is the highest-ranking Palestinian official to be assassinated by the Israelis during the 11-month Palestinian uprising.
A spokesman for the PLFP in Damascus condemned the attack and vowed revenge.
"The blood of Abu Ali Mustafa is very precious ... we will respond to this crime in a bigger way. Israel will pay a heavy price for its crime," Maher al-Taher told the Reuters news agency.
Mustafa - whose real name was Mustafa al-Zibri - was in his early 60s and had been Secretary General of the PFLP since founding leader George Habash stepped down in April 2000.
Photo: Rejectionist faction Mustafa was among those who founded the faction in 1967. George Habash stood down last year
The PFLP, a Marxist faction of Mr Arafat's PLO, has traditionally opposed any dialogue with Israel. But after the retirement of Mr Habash, Mustafa worked towards reconciliation between the PFLP and Mr Arafat.
At the same time, he continued to reject the Oslo framework as a basis for talks between Israel and the Palestinians, arguing that they did not give the Palestinians a fair deal.
The Israeli attack came after a weekend of violence in the region that left 11 people dead.
On Sunday, Israeli helicopters destroyed a Palestinian police station in the West Bank, while tanks shelled several police checkpoints.
Photo: Both sides buried dead at the weekend
The raids followed the death of an Israeli motorist who was shot as he stopped at a Palestinian shop in the West Bank. Three Israeli soldiers were killed on Saturday when two Palestinians carried out a raid on a military base. The two Palestinians were themselves killed by other soldiers.
Israel carried out a number of fighter jet and tank demolitions of Palestinian buildings in response.
Egypt and Jordan - the only two Arab countries to have signed peace treaties with Israel - called on the United States to do more to curb the violence. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Washington's failure to intervene was "dangerous for the region, for our interests and even for the Israeli people".
Tempers ran high after the violence
On Friday, President George W Bush urged Mr Arafat "to put 100% effort into stopping the terrorist activity, and I believe he can do a better job of doing that".
Arab leaders said Mr Bush's comments would encourage Israel to escalate attacks on Palestinians.
Abu Ali Mustafa returned to the West Bank in 1999 after more than 30 years in Damascus.
The Israeli army said in a statement that "contrary to his promises, he continued with terrorist activities and was responsible for dozens of attacks on Israel".
Israel has a policy of killing Palestinians it says are responsible for attacks on Israel, which is calls "active defence" or "targeted killings".
Palestinians condemn the killings as assassinations and say more than 60 people have been killed in such attacks.
The policy has also attracted widespread international criticism.