IDF girds for terror, warns it may cut power to Gaza

By Ze’ev Schiff
As the army prepares for the possibility of an escalation in terrorism, Israel is threatening to cut off the Gaza Strip’s electricity supply if a Qassam rocket hits a vital Israeli infrastructure facility. There is a working assumption in senior Israeli military circles that the situation will worsen, Israel Radio reported early on Wednesday. “The [Palestinian] Authority is not doing a thing, and appears as if it is losing control,” it quoted Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz as saying. “After the elections in the Authority we may find ourselves facing a terror offensive, therefore the IDF must be deployed and ready so that Israel is not surprised, and will know how to defend its citizens,” Mofaz was quotedn as saying. Agriculture Minister Israel Katz (Likud) told Israel Radio on Wednesday that Israel should bomb the Gaza Strip, forcing some of its residents to flee to the Sinai desert. He said that he would demand that the government undertake an efficient deterrence policy in order to prevent the firing of Qassam rockets into Israel. Labor MK Matan Vilnai said Wednesday that one of the ways Israel can prevent the firing of Qassam rockets into Israel is by having IDF troops enter the northern Gaza Strip and staying there. He told Israel Radio that by disturbing the Palestinians’ lives, the army will be able to make Palestinian civilians prevent the firing of Qassam rockets, but warned that killing Palestinian civilians would achieve the opposite. On Sunday, after a Qassam rocket fired from Gaza landed not far from an Israel Electric Corporation power plant south of Ashkelon, Israel told the Palestinian Authority that it planned to shut off power for two hours in the early hours of Monday morning, as a warning of things to come if the Qassam fire did not stop. However, implementation was indefinitely postponed to give the main Palestinian hospital in Gaza time to purchase emergency generators. The Qassam rocket fired at the power plant which, according to the Israel Defense Forces, was launched from the ruins of the settlement of Dugit, in the northern Gaza Strip, was the second rocket fired at Ashkelon in the past week. Five Qassams landed in Israel Tuesday: one on an army base, and the other four in open areas near Sderot and the western Negev. Israel realiated by shelling the open areas from which the rockets were launched. The Qassams caused neither casualties nor property damage, but the Red Dawn warning system in Sderot went off twice Tuesday evening, sending the town’s residents scurrying for shelter. Cutting off Gaza’s electricity would not only turn off all the lights in the Strip, but would also cause damage to many workshops and factories. Israel has never before taken such a step, just as it has never interfered with the PA’s water supply, and at least some Palestinian leaders apparently believe that Israel would never dare to do so. During a high-level discussion among Israeli officials, some argued that such a step would be ineffective because to the Palestinian terror organizations, the most important thing is hurting Israel -even if this also results in serious harm to the Palestinians. However, the prevailing view was that Palestinian public opinion could pressure the terrorist organizations to restrain their attacks if many Palestinians came to feel that the price they were paying for such attacks was too high. Nir Hasson contributed to this report.