NEVE DEKALIM, Gaza – Political decision makers associated with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon have directed the Israeli Defense Forces to do little to stop Palestinian militants from firing mortars and rockets into Gaza’s Jewish neighborhoods so residents will want to leave when this summer’s withdrawal plan is implemented, the security chief for Gaza’s Jewish communities told WND in an exclusive interview yesterday.
“The political leaders supporting the evacuation from Gaza have told the IDF not to stop the mortars and Qassams. I know this, but anyway it is obvious to everyone,” said Ami Shaked, chief security coordinator for the Gush Katif Block, the slate of Jewish communities in Gaza scheduled for evacuation August 15.
Hamas has been launching almost daily rocket and mortar attacks against Gush Katif. The terror group yesterday fired three Qassam rockets, and last week launched over 15 mortars and six Qassams at several Gaza Jewish neighborhoods.
The Israeli Defense Forces responded last week to mortar fire by striking a truck filled with rocket launchers. The retaliation followed the death a day earlier of two workers in a Jewish Gaza greenhouse hit by a Hamas Qassam rocket.
But rocket attacks here have rarely prompted an Israeli response, with IDF officials routinely citing a cease-fire agreement signed by Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmaud Abbas as restricting their ability to conduct military operations within the Gaza Strip.
There have been over 300 attacks since February and only about a dozen IDF anti-rocket operations.
“There is a huge difference between the army’s anti-terror operations in the West Bank and those in Gaza. They are not even using 5 percent of their capabilities to stop the rockets,” Shaked said.
Shaked claimed the IDF has the capabilities to stop a majority of the rocket attacks.
“The IDF has a whole lot of mechanisms, including a drone that can easily identify and take out most of the Qassam launchers. But they have been told not to do the operations. They are allowing Hamas to make life miserable here. This way people don’t want to stay after it comes time for the withdrawal.”
As WND first reported, the IDF has a drone it says is capable of quickly identifying and targeting Palestinian rocket launchers. Military officials warned they would use the pilotless aircraft to effectively eliminate the rocket threat.
“Use of this drone should send shivers down the spines of terrorists planning further attacks,” an Israeli official previously told WorldNetDaily. “Israel is using it to serve as a deterrent for further attacks. It provides us with constant intelligence in real time from afar, and enables us to respond immediately and forcefully.”
But lawmakers, and Gush Katif residents and leaders told WND the rocket attacks are being permitted and are meant to disrupt their lives.
Brig. Gen. Effie Eitam, a Knesset member who recently moved to Gush Katif, told WND: “The IDF knows who is launching the mortars, from where exactly and when. They have been instructed by the political echelon, by Sharon, to do nothing about the attacks. The goal is to make life as bad as possible so people will want to leave and not spoil the disengagement process. We see the military is indeed actually doing nothing. They are just watching the mortars and Qassams fall.”
Eitam, who served in Sharon’s Cabinet as housing minister until he resigned last year in protest of the Gaza evacuation, said the IDF is occasionally pressured into responding to Hamas attacks.
“[Last week], two people were killed by rockets. Suddenly we see an IDF anti-rocket operation,” he said.
Arab Druze Knesset member Ayoob Kara, an anti-disengagement lawmaker, agreed.
“The army is acting as a political arm,” Kara told WND. “The military leaders don’t all want to do this, but they are still going along with the same steps politically as Mr. Sharon tells them, to pave the way for Jewish residents [of Gaza] to want to leave. … They are not defending Gaza.”
Former Tourism Minister Benny Elon of Israel’s National Union Party told WND: “There can be no doubt Israel is letting Hamas get away with the attacks. This is a policy now dictated by political decision makers. The message being sent loud and clear to residents of Gush Katif is to get out and don’t try to oppose the evacuation.”
An IDF spokeswoman told WND the army is doing everything in its power to stop the regular barrage of mortars and Qassams.
Raanan Gissin, senior advisor to Sharon, said, “I think all past experience indicates the IDF always takes necessary steps to defend the state of Israel. That’s why we have an army which makes assessments with the best way to provide security. There is no exception for the Gush Katif area and other areas in Gaza.”
But Shaked said, “That Israel is not defending Gaza is so in the open, it cannot be denied. A lot of IDF officials want to defeat Hamas and stop the rockets, but they are not being allowed.”