Terrorist organizations are making every effort to carry out as many attacks as possible, including "mega-attacks," inside Israel, the head of Military Intelligence, Major General Aharon Ze'evi (Farkash), told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday. There are currently six warnings of attacks that are about to be perpetrated, he said.
Ze'evi defined a mega-attack as one in which several suicide bombers or car bombs explode simultaneously, or when a particularly large amount of explosive material is detonated to cause a huge number of casualties.
At the same time, the Israel Defense Forces have information indicating that potential suicide bombers have refrained from carrying out their attacks for fear that their family's home will be destroyed, Ze'evi said. Five suicide bombings are known to have been prevented recently for this reason, he said.
In order to keep the identity of the families secret, there has also recently been a trend not to set up mourning tents outside the home of the family of a suicide bomber. The fear that the family will be banished from the West Bank to Gaza is a further deterrent, he said.
The recent IDF campaigns in the territories and the presence of the troops in the Palestinian towns is making it more difficult for terrorists to carry out attacks inside Israel and therefore they are turning some of their efforts to the settlements, Ze'evi told the MKs. When the curfew was eased last week, the number of attacks increased, he noted.
Ze'evi said there was a shortage of weapons in some parts of the territories and stressed that, if the Palestinian Administration were interested in preventing terror, it would be able to do so. PA head Yasser Arafat is becoming more and more isolated and even his close aides are threatening to stop backing him. Arafat's personal wealth, he said, is estimated at $1.3 billion.
According to intelligence assessments, criticism of Arafat inside Palestinian society in general, as well as in the Fatah organization, is growing. Popular demonstrations critical of Arafat have been held in Gaza, Jenin and Tubas, and negative commentary has appeared in the media. Nevertheless, Arafat is still in control behind the scenes.
Turning to the assassination of Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh last month, Ze'evi said this had hit the organization's terrorist infrastructure hard. Plans to carry out several attacks, including an attempt at a high-rise building in Israel, were foiled, after the liquidation of the No. 2 man in the Hamas.
The middle generation of Palestinian society is beginning to discuss possible changes in patterns of response towards Israel, including the possibility of a cease-fire - but this is not acceptable to the Al-Aqsa Brigades and the Hamas, he noted. Palestinian society is undergoing a process of dealing with its losses in the struggle against Israel in view of its economic plight, the presence of the IDF and the apathy of the Arab world, he said.
Hamas, Islamic Jihad: attacks inside Israel to continue
Senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials said Tuesday that the militant organizations would continue to carry out attacks inside Israel, while a senior official from Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement said that his group would halt all such military operations.
Senior Fatah official Hussein Al Sheikh said that the movement has decided to halt all attacks inside Israel and that he said that he expects the movement's military wing, the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, to follow suit, despite a leaflet it released to the contrary, Israel Radio reported.
"It is not part of Fatah's strategy to harm innocent people and to carry out attacks inside Israel," he said. "Our strategy is to set up a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip... on conquered lands."
Al Sheikh's comments came as the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip continued to discuss the draft paper that was drawn up by representatives of all the Palestinian political organizations, including Hamas members, which hints at a rejection of terror attacks inside Israel proper.
But Hamas leaders were making it increasingly clear Tuesday that they would not accept a cessation of attacks inside Israel. Ismail Abu-Shanab, a Hamas leader in Gaza, was quoted by the radio as saying that his movement would continue to strike inside Israel.
A senior Islamic Jihad official also said Tuesday that the militant organization would not halt attacks inside Israel. "We will continue to oppose the occupation, even if an agreement is reached on the document currently being discussed with the PA," he said.
Representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization factions who participated in drafting the paper were still hoping Monday that the Hamas leadership would eventually decide to add its signature to what has been described as a national memorandum determining national objectives and courses of action against the Israeli occupation that would be acceptable to all political groups in the territories.
According to statements by Hamas activists, it appears that the organization's leadership will not sign the document, which defines the national objective as the establishment of a state in all the areas occupied in 1967 and leaves the right to determine the means of combating the occupation in the hands of a collective national leadership still to be established.
Hamas sources said that they had many reservations about the document, despite the fact that Abu-Shanab participated in its formulation. The sources said that Hamas was not happy with the 1967 lines being the borders of a Palestinian state, with the negation of military activities inside Israel, and with the hint that political negotiations with Israel would continue.
According to Ismail Haniya, a close confidant of Hamas's spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, "There is much common ground between Hamas and the other organizations, and the intifada has reinforced this; but we are studying [the document] so as to strengthen the common points."
The representatives of the various political organizations were slated Tuesday to declare their acceptance of the document, but it appears now, in light of the Hamas position, that the groups will choose to continue their talks rather than declare them a failure.