TEL AVIV Ñ Palestinian insurgents are exploiting their
newly-obtained freedom of movement to transport weapons and mortars in the
Gaza Strip, according to Israeli military sources.
The sources said Southern Command has determined that
Palestinians from several insurgency groups are moving both combatants and
weapons along the north-south highway through the Gaza Strip. The sources
said movement of weapons and insurgents was detected on Monday, the first
day after the Israeli withdrawal from the northern Gaza Strip.
"We are seeing terrorist groups using the ceasefire to reorganize, move
weapons and equipment to replace those destroyed in Israeli operations," a
military source said.
Despite a ceasefire announcement by the three largest insurgency groups,
Palestinian gunners have maintained mortar, anti-tank and automatic fire on
Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip, Middle East Newsline reported. Four Israelis were injured in an
anti-tank rocket attack on the Israeli community of Kfar Darom.
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On Thursday, Israel's military closed the north-south road in the Gaza
Strip near the Israeli settlement bloc of Gush Katif. The military said in a
statement that the closure came amid renewed violence along the road, a
reference to the Kfar Darom attack.
Later, Israel relayed a formal protest to the PA. Military sources said
the north-south road was reopened on Thursday afternoon.
The Palestinian mortar and anti-tank fire has been attributed largely to
the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, dominated by the ruling Fatah movement of
Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. The sources said Al Aqsa has been
splintered and cells continue to receive funds from Iran and Hizbullah to
maintain insurgency operations.
Israeli officials said the PA has come under increasing pressure from
the United States to confiscate weapons from insurgency groups in
the Gaza Strip. They said the PA has been urged to arrest senior
operatives and raid strongholds by July 20.
On Thursday, PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, who toured the northern
Gaza Strip, condemned the latest attacks on Israeli positions and pledged to
arrest those who carried out the operation. PA Security Affairs Minister
Mohammed Dahlan said PA security forces are seeking suspects in the rocket
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom has also demanded that the PA stop
encouraging young Palestinians to attack Israelis. Shalom said Palestinian
television incites to violence and that 40,000 Palestinian youngsters would
undergo training at summer camps to help in the insurgency war against
For its, part, the PA has pressed Israel to release thousands of
Palestinian prisoners. Officials said Israel has signaled its approval to
free 2,200 detainees deemed as not having been involved in the killing of
Israelis. They said 2,500 Palestinian detainees have been directly connected
to the death of Israelis.
Palestinian sources said Israel plans to release a senior PA security
official on late Thursday. The sources identified the official as Col.
Suleiman Abu Mutlaq, regarded as the No. 3 figure in the Preventive Security
Apparatus and was arrested on suspicion of helping direct insurgency attacks
against Israeli civilian targets. The PA has demanded Abu Mutlaq's release
to help end Palestinian insurgency attacks in the Gaza Strip.