Tuesday, May 18, 2004

As fighting intensified in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, referring to Israel, on Saturday exhorted Palestinians to “terrorize your enemy and the enemy of God.” Throughout the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinian demonstrators mourning the 56th anniversary of Israel’s creation followed Mr. Arafat’s lead in demanding that millions of Palestinians be given the “right of return” to Israel — something the Jewish state regards as a formula for its destruction.

Through most of its history, the United States “has been protected by vast oceans to our east and west, and blessed with friendly neighbors,” President Bush noted yesterday in a speech. “The Israeli people have always had enemies at their borders and terrorists close at hand.”

On the Israeli side, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is pursuing a two-track policy: coming up with a new plan for removing settlements from Gaza; and stepping up military operations against Palestinian terrorist groups operating out of that territory.

The military operations are aimed in part at destroying an intricate web of tunnels built by the terrorist groups operating near the Egypt-Gaza border. The tunnels are used to smuggle an array of weapons, including shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft missiles, anti-tank grenades and rifles and large amounts of explosive material into Gaza in order to target Israeli soldiers and civilians there. The weapons are also used to attack Israeli civilians living in towns located near the Gaza border. The Israeli army is also locating and destroying weapons factories set up by Hamas and other violent groups. These targets, where short-range missiles are manufactured, are located in densely populated urban neighborhoods and refugee camps in Gaza.

Last week, after at least 13 Israeli soldiers were killed in fighting in Gaza, Palestinians celebrated in front of television cameras by kicking around the severed head of one of those soldiers.

Israelis are not the only ones being harmed. Since March, terrorists have staged a series of attacks targeting industrial parks located on the Gaza-Israel border, where thousands of Palestinians work. By doing this, the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hezbollah, which has come to play a leading role in coordinating terrorist operations in the West Bank and Gaza, has apparently decided to target some of the few remaining areas of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation. Like Mr. Arafat, the terrorist bosses in Tehran, Damascus and Beirut appear quite willing to see Palestinians thrown out of work as a result of the violence — and hope the world blames heightened Israeli security restrictions for the plight of the people who lose their jobs.

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