Israel's military plans for Arafat's death

Special to World
Friday, October 29, 2004

TEL AVIV Israel's military has drafted a plan to respond to the expected death of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.

Officials said the military's Central Command has drafted and submitted to the General Staff a plan meant to counter insurgency attacks or massive civil unrest in wake of Arafat's death. The plan, dubbed "New Leaf," was said to have been drafted in 2003 and updated several times as Arafat's health deteriorated.

Central Command covers the West Bank and according to the plan the military would avoid a presence around Ramallah during the organization of a post-Arafat leadership. On Friday, Arafat was flown to a military hospital in Paris for treatment.

"We don't have to plan too much for additional attacks," Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's political-military bureau, said. "We are already under attack."

Officials said the military plan called for an emergency deployment of forces to guard against any Palestinian offensive. The plan would place Israeli forces around West Bank cities and along key roads to prevent Palestinian attacks Israeli motorists and residents.

The plan would also prevent Palestinians from leaving for demonstrations from West Bank cities and approaching Israeli military outposts or civilian communities. About 200,000 Israelis live in the West Bank.

The decline in Arafat's condition has been accompanied by mortar attacks on Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip. On Thursday, an Israeli soldier was killed and six others were injured in a combined mortar shell and shooting attack at an outpost near the Israeli community of Morag in the southern Gaza Strip.

Later, the military reported the killing of a Hamas insurgent responsible for a suicide bombing at Israel's security fence near Kalkilya in September 2004. The insurgent was identified as Ibrahim Issa, 47, and a military communique reported the capture of 19 bombs.

The military has also drafted a set of scenarios in the aftermath of Arafat's death. They included a Palestinian effort to bury Arafat in Jerusalem and the prospect of fighting within PA security forces.

Officials said Arafat would not be buried in Jerusalem. But the military plan envisioned the prospect that the PA chairman would be interned in the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon held what his office termed security consultations regarding Arafat's decline. A statement by Sharon's office said the prime minister received a "comprehensive and exhaustive intelligence briefing."

"Prime Minister Sharon instructed Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz to hold a comprehensive security assessment of the situation forthwith," the statement said. "The prime minister directed that the next Cabinet meeting include a special discussion on events in the PA and that the Cabinet receive exhaustive briefings from senior security establishment officials on the issue."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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