Israel’s security fence, plus its recent assassinations of Hamas leaders, are responsible for a major decrease in Palestinian terrorism and an absence of suicide bombings in Israel proper since February, Raanan Gissin, chief spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, tells WorldNetDaily.
“While terror alerts are at an all-time high, the Palestinian ability to carry out suicide bombings is at an all-time low because of the fence and our relentless efforts to keep terrorists, especially Hamas, constantly on the run,” explained Gissin. However, he also voiced concern over the possibility that terrorists would now resort to firing rockets over the fence.
Since the security-fence project began in the West Bank, Israel has realized an overall decline in suicide bombings in areas where construction is the most advanced. Between April and December 2002, for example, before construction of the fence in Samaria, 17 suicide attacks were committed by terrorists infiltrating from that area. But in all of 2003, after the construction of the Samaria section of the fence, there were only five attacks in Israel proper emanating from the area, usually through vulnerabilities in the fence that were immediately remedied.
The last suicide bombing across the Green Line was a Feb. 22, 2004, bus bombing by Yasser Arafat’s Al Asqa Martyrs’ Brigade, which killed 8 and wounded over 60.
Perhaps most tellingly, not a single suicide bomber has infiltrated Israel from the Gaza Strip, which has been surrounded by a similar security fence, erected as part of the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement of 1995.
Gissin expects the West Bank security fence to be completed within a year, and says, “there is no doubt its existence as it stands today has reduced by at least 50 percent the number of successful terror attacks.”
He dismisses the controversy surrounding the fence, which includes complaints that it cuts through Arab property, as well as claims Israel is using the fence to create new borders, bypassing final status agreements with the Palestinians.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a senior aide to Arafat who talked with WND by phone from the PLO leader’s battered Ramallah compound, said, “The fence is another Berlin Wall. The main point of this illegal wall is to prevent our people from establishing an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as our capital.”
“Baloney,” retorted Gissin. “This fence is about one thing – saving Israeli lives. What would the U.S. do if a bordering territory was sending suicide bombers to blow up American women and children in cafes and buses? In fact, the U.N. recently announced that it is constructing a fence around its building in New York for security purposes.”
Gissin also attributes Israel’s recent high-profile assassinations of top terror leaders as a major deterrent tactic that has paid off. On March 22, Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was killed leaving his mosque, and a month later, Israel assassinated Yassin’s replacement, Abdel Aziz Rantisi.
Following both assassinations, Hamas and Islamic Jihad promised large-scale retribution attacks. The Hamas website declared that the group would “send swarms of martyrs to Jerusalem. The Zionist enemy will be crippled from our vengeance.” Israeli citizens braced for a wave of suicide bombings within Israel proper, but none were forthcoming.
“Yes, we heard these promises for revenge after both assassinations,” said Gissin. “But because they are constantly under attack, these terrorists have to spend more time hiding and worrying about their security. And since the port of entry is greatly reduced by the fence, so too is their ability to send in bombers.”
Asked whether Israel has immediate plans to assassinate Mahmoud A-Zahar, the recently identified leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, or Khelad Meshal, the overall leader of Hamas who operates openly from Damascus, Gassin replied: “There’s an old Arabic expression that translates into ‘Every dog has his day.’ There will be no sanctuary for the murderers of our people.”
Meanwhile, Gissin worries that unable to infiltrate Israel, Palestinian terror organizations may change their tactics to firing rockets over the security fence. There are signs that this is beginning to happen. Israel’s Shin Bet Chief recently warned that Palestinian groups are working hard to develop artillery and other weaponry to fire over the fence. And there have been numerous, largely symbolic rocket firings from Palestinian territory that so far have not resulted in any significant damage.
“Rockets may be the new threat,” said Gissin. “But the terrorists must know that Israel knows how to stop terrorism. We will neutralize this threat, as well.”