RAMALLAH ø Israel's military has launched an unprecedented operation
to seize Palestinian insurgency assets.
An Israeli Army force, accompanied by security agents, raided 13 banks
in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday for a search of money
transfers to such Palestinian insurgency groups as the ruling Fatah
movement, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Officials said the operation to seize
insurgency assets was unprecedented in scope.
Money transferred to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers was
also seized, officials said. In all, they said, 390 accounts were
confiscated in an operation dubbed "Green Lantern."
Officials said that during a nearly six-month investigation Israeli
security agents traced money transfers from Hizbullah and aligned elements
to the 13 bank branches in Ramallah. The sources said Israeli forces
arrested bank employees and forced them to help examine the accounts of
depositors during Wednesday's raid.
An Israeli government statement said the military targeted accounts of
Hamas and Jihad in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The statement said
authorities also searched for funds transferred by Hizbullah as well as the
accounts of insurgency commanders and fugitives.
"[Authorities sought] accounts of terrorists in Judea, Samaria [West
Bank] and Gaza to which funds have been transferred from terrorist
senior terrorists who received funds designated for financing terrorism, and
senior fugitives in Judea, Samaria and Gaza and their families ø when the
account was at the disposal of the fugitive," the statement said. "In the
context of the operation, accounts are being examined at various banks,
which are suspected of receiving funds ø used to expedite anti-Israel
terrorism -- from Hizbullah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad."
About 3.5 million shekels [$775,000] were confiscated from one account,
officials said. In all, 37 million shekels [$8.2 million] were seized and
officials said they would be transferred for Palestinian humanitarian needs.
About 20 Palestinians who tried to stop the Israeli force were injured.
A senior military source said the transfers to Palestinian insurgency
groups were not directly connected to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser
Arafat. But the source said deposits to charities linked to insurgency
groups were connected to unidentified Palestinian leaders.
[On Thursday, two Palestinian insurgents attacked the Erez border
terminal in the northern Gaza Strip. The two insurgents killed an Israeli
soldier before they were shot to death by Israeli forces.]
Officials said several of the banks have been identified as the leading
facilitators of financing to Palestinian insurgency groups. They said many
of the financial transfers take place via couriers who arrive from Jordan.
Israel's military and security agencies have long warned that the
Palestinian insurgency war is being fueled by Hizbullah and Iran. Officials
said Iran has increased its funding for Palestinian suicide attacks in
Israel, including instituting a new system that pays insurgents per Israeli
"The goal of today's operation is to impede the terrorist organizations'
activities and reduce their financial capabilities on the ground," the
statement said. "The operation is part of the comprehensive U.S.-led
measures currently being carried out around the world against terrorist
[Later, U.S. officials said the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv has been in
contact with Israeli authorities regarding the seizure of the Palestinian
assets. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher urged Israel to
coordinate with the Palestinian Authority on the transfer of funds to
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz ordered his aides to recommend how to
transfer the seized funds to help Palestinian humanitarian needs. Officials
said the focus would be to improve the infrastructure at crossing points and
checkpoints as well as Palestinian health services, transportation for
school pupils and food supply.