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Israel on alert as Abbas pressed on 'third intifada'

TEL AVIV — Israel has been placed on alert for the prospect of widespread Palestinian violence throughout the West Bank.   

Officials said Israel's military, police and intelligence services were ordered on high alert after the military has assessed that the ruling Fatah movement, in cooperation with elements within the Palestinian Authority, were organizing civil unrest as well as ambushes on Israeli soldiers and civilians.

Officials said PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has been pressed by senior members of Fatah to approve what was termed a "third intifada," or uprising.

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"Abbas doesn't have to actually approve anything," the official said. "He just has to remain silent as PA officers and others are recruited to attack us."

"We know there has been strenuous efforts to expand the current unrest in Jerusalem to the West Bank," an official said.

On Oct. 8, Fatah called for a Palestinian general strike throughout Jerusalem and the West Bank. The movement ordered the shutdown to begin on the following day.

The military's Central Command has conducted simulations of Fatah- and Hamas-organized violence and attacks on Israeli motorists as well as against Jewish communities in the West Bank.

So far, most of the Palestinian violence, linked to friction around the Temple Mount, has been limited to Hebron, Jerusalem and Ramallah. Officials said Hamas has not yet ordered its operatives to attack Jewish targets or organize anti-Israeli demonstrations.

The PA, particularly Abbas, has come under unprecedented Palestinian criticism for refusing to support a vote on a United Nations report that accused Israel of war crimes. Officials said Abbas was responding to heavy U.S. pressure not to torpedo efforts to renew negotiations between the PA and Israel. The council shelved the report for six months.

"What happened is a mistake, but it can be repaired," PLO secretary-general Yasser Abed Rabbo told PA radio. "We have the courage to admit there was a mistake."

Officials said the PA has ordered security officers and other civil servants to participate in demonstrations throughout the West Bank. They said the demonstrations would support Abbas and protest Israeli policy in the West Bank.

Still, Israel's military has determined that Palestinians were not rushing to join any campaign against the Jewish state, officials said. They said the success of any Fatah-organized insurgency would depend largely on the ability to pay Palestinians to conduct operations against Israel.

"The forecast is that there will be violence, but it will probably not last long," an Israeli military source said.

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