Israel credits fence for significant drop in terror attacks

Thursday, July 8, 2004

JERUSALEM Israel has reported a major decline in the terror threat posed by Palestinian insurgents in the northern West Bank.

An Israeli government report said the capability of Palestinian insurgents in the northern West Bank dropped by 90 percent over the last year.

The report cited the construction of the security fence and barrier, which was completed in 2003 along the northern and central areas of the West Bank, Middle East Newsline reported.

"A comparison of the number of attacks within Israel carried out by Samaria-based terrorists after the anti-terrorist fence was built, and the number of attacks carried out by the same terrorist groups before the building of the fence, reveals a drop of some 90 percent in the ability of these terrorist groups to perpetrate attacks within Israel," the Israel Foreign Ministry said in a report.

The report said that between August 2003 and July 2004, Palestinian insurgents based in the northern West Bank succeeded in carrying out three major attacks within Israel. All of the attacks took place in the first half of 2003, in which 26 Israelis were killed and 76 were injured.

In two of the three insurgency attacks, the report said Palestinian operatives infiltrated Israel from areas where the security fence had not been completed. In a third case, a female insurgent used a Jordanian passport to move through the military checkpoint at Barta to enter Israel.

The report said that from September 2000 until July 2003, Palestinian insurgents based in the northern West Bank carried out 73 attacks, many of them suicide bombings within Israel in which 293 Israelis were killed and 1,950 were injured. In July 2003, much of the security fence and barrier was completed along the northern West Bank.

In all, the report said, the number of Israeli casualties from Palestinian attacks that stemmed in the northern West Bank dropped by 70 percent since July 2003.

"A comparison of the above data shows a decrease of slightly more than 90 percent in the number of attacks: from an average of 26 attacks a year before the fence, to three attacks after erection of the anti-terrorist fence," the report said. "While the number of attacks dropped sharply, the number of attempted attacks that were foiled in various stages of preparation since the erection of the anti-terrorist fence in August 2003 remained high."

[On Wednesday, Hamas gunners fired two Kassam-class short-range missiles from the northern Gaza Strip, which landed around the Israeli city of Sderot. Nobody was injured. Hours later, a car exploded in Gaza City and three Hamas operatives were injured.]

The report said that over the last year Israeli military and police prevented dozens of attacks by insurgents in the northern West Bank. These attacks were in the final stages of preparation and 24 explosive belts and bombs were captured.

As a result of the security fence, the report said, Palestinian insurgents have moved their launching point for operations to the southern West Bank, including Jerusalem and Ramallah. The report said many of these attempts were also foiled. Israel's High Court has ordered parts of the wall erected in the Ramallah area to be demolished.

On Tuesday, an Israeli military operation resulted in the death of four Palestinians in the northern West Bank city of Nablus. An AH-64A Apache attack helicopter fired three missiles that killed the Palestinians, two of whom were identified as bystanders and holding U.S. citizenship.

Israeli officials acknowledged the mistake and said an apology and explanation was relayed to the United States. They said two of the Palestinian casualties were identified as senior insurgents in the Nablus area.

"The rule is that we try not to use attack helicopters in built-up areas," Brig. Gen. Gadi Eisenkott said. "This was an exception because of the circumstances of the operation."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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