PM: Israel to escalate if PA fails to curb terror

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Sunday warned the Palestinian Authority that there will be no progress in the peace process unless it cracks down on the Islamic Jihad and other terror organizations, and if the PA fails to do so, Israel will escalate its military operations. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz sent the PA leader a list of wanted militants and demanded their arrest.

As Israeli police went on their highest state of alert for terror attacks Sunday, Deputy Defense Minister Ze’ev Boim sharpened the warning, declaring that in the absence of strong PA action, Israel may resume its policy of targeted killings of commanders and operatives of the terrorist organization. The Damascus-based leadership of the Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for the Friday suicide bombing that killed four people at a beachfront Tel Aviv nightclub. Jihad said it sent the bomber, Abdullah Badran, 21, from a village near the West Bank town of Tul Karm, in response to what it called Israel’s violations of the de facto truce between the sides. Speaking at the opening of the weekly cabinet session, Sharon said that that the „immediate test” of the Palestinian Authority would be that of taking strong against members of the Islamic Jihad. „Israel has of late acted with restraint in order to enable progress,” Sharon said. „But it is clear that if the Palestinian Authority does not begin determined against terrorism, Israel will be forced to step up the military activity aimed at protecting the citizens of the state of Israel.” Sharon refrained from detailing the steps Israel might take. But Boim hinted at assassinations, which Israel authorized and carried out extensively during the Intifada. It has refrained from ordering the killings since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas concluded a cease-fire at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit on February 8. Boim told Israel Radio that Abbas „is not doing anything about Islamic Jihad, and therefore we will have to take care of the organization ourselves.” Turning to the nascent peace process, Sharon said „The State of Israel is interested in making progress towards an accord with the Palestinians, but there will be no diplomatic progress – I repeat, no diplomatic progress – until the Palestinians take determined to liquidate terror organizations in the territory of the Palestinian Authority.” Mofaz gives list of wanted militants to Abbas Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz on Sunday presented the cabinet during its weekly meeting with several of Israel’s responses to the Tel Aviv terror attack. Mofaz said he gave Abbas a list of wanted Palestinian militants and requested that the PA arrested them. „We expect that he [Abbas] will immediately begin making arrests, particularly of Islamic Jihad figures,” Mofaz said. The defense minister added that he had directed the security forces to operate against Islamic Jihad. „There will be pinpoint operations against these people, notably arrests that have already started overnight. These operations will continue in a wide manner, particularly in the Tul Karm sector,” Mofaz said. Mofaz also presented the cabinet with the decision made by the defense establishment not to allow an Islamic Jihad representative to head from the territories to Cairo for cease-fire talks that was set to be held on March 5. According to Mofaz, following the announcement of the Israeli decision on the matter, Egypt delayed the meeting to March 15. „We will also not allow the departure of the Jihad representative on this date,” he said. He added that Israel will prevent the release of Islamic Jihad militants when another 400 Palestinian prisoners are freed in accordance with understandings reached at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit. Police on highest terror alert Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi ordered his forces to operate Sunday at the highest state of alert for possible further attacks. Karadi ordered the tightening of police security along the seam line border between the West Bank and Israel, as well as in towns. Roadblocks were set up in sensitive areas and surveillance of schools, bus stops and crowded areas was bolstered. Police also intensified searches for Palestinians residing illegally in Israel. Boim: Israel could attack Syria Senior government sources said Saturday that Israel will not launch major military in retaliation to Friday night’s suicide bombing The government, however, will increase political pressure on Syria for backing Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for the attack, and the Palestinian Authority to act against terror. Boim also warned that Israel could attack targets in Syria, accused of harboring the headquarters of the Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for Friday’s bombing. „Israel attacked targets in Syria in the past and could do it again, if seen needed,” Boim told the radio, referring to the bombing of the Islamic Jihad’s training facilities south of Damascus in October 2003, following the deadly suicide bombing of the Maxim restaurant in Haifa. At a meeting of security chiefs Saturday, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said the process of transferring security control of West Bank cities to the PA would be frozen, „until further evaluation, in which Israel will examine whether Abu Mazen’s [PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas] government has taken the necessary steps against Islamic Jihad and the other terror organizations.” BPI-info