- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Monday’s suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, which killed at least nine people, and Hamas’s defense of the terrorists who carried it out, will move Israel and the Palestinian Authority one step closer to the inevitable day of reckoning with the terrorists based in Gaza. A Hamas spokesman in Gaza defended the Tel Aviv bombing, calling it “a legal and natural reaction to the Israeli crimes.” In Damascus, a senior Hamas official said Israel was to blame for the attack. Israeli U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman, noting the roles of Iran and Syria in supporting terrorism, denounced what it termed a new “axis of terror” that has been formed by Tehran, Damascus and the PA under Hamas’ control.

Israel is currently fighting a low-level war with Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (the group responsible for Monday’s bombing), Fatah’s al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and other terror groups operating in Gaza and the West Bank. In the West Bank, where Israel retains a major security presence, its army and police launch continuing security operations to capture fugitive terrorists targetting Israelis. In Gaza, where Hamas and other terror groups are in charge on the ground, Israel uses artillery and aircraft fire against sites where Palestinians launch Qassam rockets into Israel, and Israeli aircraft carry out targetted killings of terrorist leaders — much as Washington has post-September 11. For every terrorist who makes it into Israel, like Monday’s Tel Aviv bomber, Israel thwarts dozens of other attempts to carry out such attacks. Since January Israel says it has arrested 90 potential suicide bombers.

Still, the security situation in Gaza is moving from dangerous to intolerable: The situation on Israel’s border with Gaza is worsening, as Qassam rocket attacks on southern Israel have become a routine event. The Israel Defense Forces say that security has collapsed on the border between Gaza and Egypt, and that members of al Qaeda and Iranian and Syrian terrorists can enter Gaza as they please. On March 28, Israel’s Election Day, the PIJ fired a Katyusha rocket — a weapon with up to twice the range of the Qassams — into Israel. The Israeli military says that the organization has brought an unknown number of additional Katyushas into Gaza — potentially putting tens of thousands of additional Israeli civilians into range.

In remarks delivered before the U.N. Security Council on Monday, Mr. Gillerman noted recent calls by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to wipe Israel off the map, and said that by harboring and financing terrorist groups, Tehran, Damascus and Hamas were issuing “declarations of war.” If present trends continue, it is only a matter of time before Israel launches a large-scale ground operation into Gaza to deal with the Taliban-style terrorist threat next door.

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