KISSUFIM CROSSING, Gaza – The Israeli Defense Forces is intentionally doing 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, soldiers stationed at a major Gaza checkpoint told WND yesterday.
“It’s politics. We want to defend [the Jewish communities of Gaza], and there is a lot that can be done about the Qassams, but we’re not being allowed to,” said a soldier stationed at the Kissufim Crossing, a major checkpoint separating Gaza’s mid-section from Khan Yunis, a large Palestinian neighborhood in the south. The soldier said he participates in anti-terror operations in Gaza.
Another soldier stationed at the crossing said, “I feel bad for the people who live in Gush Katif (the main area of Gaza Jewish communities). They did nothing wrong, and there is a lot more the IDF can do to stop the rockets. We have a drone that can locate launchers, but it’s rarely used.”
The soldiers talked on condition their names not be mentioned because they are forbidden to speak to the media without prior approval from their commander.
Hamas has been launching almost daily rocket and mortar attacks against Gush Katif. The terror group yesterday fired two Qassam rockets, and last week launched over 20 mortars and 10 Qassams at several Gaza Jewish neighborhoods.
Said the first soldier: “They are not being stopped on purpose. It’s politics. Sharon wants to make life total hell so the Jews will want to leave during the withdrawal in August. And when rockets are coming down on you all day, I am sure it really is hell.”
Rocket attacks in Gush Katif have rarely prompted an Israeli response, with IDF officials routinely citing a cease-fire agreement signed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmaud Abbas as restricting their ability to conduct military operations within the Gaza Strip.
There have been over 350 attacks since February and only about a dozen IDF anti-rocket operations.
In what some here called a shocking interview, the security chief for the Jewish communities of Gaza last week told WND political decision makers associated with Sharon have directed the IDF against anti-rocket operations.
“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 Gush Katif.
“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, like the soldiers stationed at the Gaza border, 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.
“[Recently], 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 the IDF soldiers at Kissufim were adamant, with one stating, “Ask any soldier who speaks the truth. He’ll tell you we can stop the rockets. But for some reason, it’s not happening.”