JERUSALEM ø For the first time, Palestinian insurgents have
succeeded in smuggling rocket-propelled grenades into the West Bank.
Israeli military sources said combat forces have found an arsenal that
included RPGs outside the West Bank city of Ramallah. They said the cache
found in the Ramallah suburb of Mukhmas on Thursday was the largest found in
the West Bank in years.
Over the last two years, Palestinian insurgency groups, supported by the
flow of weapons and components from Egypt, have produced and deployed RPGs
in the Gaza Strip, Middle East Newsline reported. The weapons have been used for attacks on Israeli main
battle tanks, armored personnel carriers and civilian vehicles. On Friday, a
Palestinian rocket slammed into an Israeli home in the central Gaza Strip,
injuring two people.
So far, the sources said, the military has not been able to identify the
owners of the cache. They said the acquisition of RPGs marked an escalation
of the insurgency in the West Bank, which had been based on assault rifles
and explosive belts.
"There were 10 RPGs and perhaps even more than that," Col. Mickey,
commander of Binyamina Brigade, said. "The introduction of the RPGs in the
area significantly raises the threat to our forces and we have to be
prepared for this."
Military sources said the amount of weapons found in Mukhmas exceeded
that of any cache captured during the Israeli invasion of West Bank cities
in 2002. They said Palestinian insurgency groups have invested heavily in
restoring their cells and renewing attacks.
In May, an enhanced Soviet-origin RPG-7 destroyed an Israeli M113 APC
along the Egyptian-Gaza border. At the time, Israeli military sources said
the weapon was believed to have been produced by Egypt's state-owned defense
industry and smuggled to the Gaza Strip.
In a separate development, Israel reported the foiling of a suicide
attack by a Palestinian teenager in the northern city of Afula. Israeli
officials said a 15-year-old from the northern West Bank city of Jenin was
given 1,000 shekels, or $220, by Fatah and Islamic Jihad to blow himself up
with a seven-kilogram bomb.
Officials said the bomb was hidden in a bag of flour and smuggled into
the Jewish state via Palestinians allowed into Israel through a family
reunification program. They said Israeli authorities have significantly
boosted security throughout the country amid 40 alerts of a Palestinian
attack during the Jewish fast of Yom Kippur.