Thursday, October 5, 2000

Moving Targets

Moving Targets
October 5, 2000

At nine o'clock last night several of us met to practice safety procedures for use in times of emergency. We set up a makeshift medical center for emergency treatment. It took about an hour and when finished, we began to clean up and return all the supplies to their storage closets. Then, at exactly 10:00 all hell broke loose. Bursts of automatic gunfire sounded like it was coming from all directions.

After initially taking cover, we all took up positions. I ran upstairs to our Beit Hadassah apartment, and found my wife and children sitting on the floor, as far away from all windows as possible. After a while, when things quieted down, they ran downstairs to my oldest daughter's basement apartment, out of range of all shooting. Other families situated themselves in rooms with no windows facing south, the direction of the Harat al-Shech hills, overlooking the entire Beit Hadassah neighborhood. These hills were 'transferred' to Arafat and the Palestinian Authority following implementation of the 'Hebron Accords,' three and a half years ago. Before the deal was signed we warned of the impending dangers, but were ignored. Then Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, upon hearing of our concerns during a meeting with him, promised, "If they shoot at you from those hills, we'll send in tanks."

So much for Bibi's tanks.

The Beit Hadassah neighborhood was not the only target. The Avraham Avinu neighborhood, a favorite of terrorist snipers, was again hit. Only one night before, the children's kindergarten located in the neighborhood, was shot at and hit, as was a car and several apartments. Last night, at exactly 10:00, shots again rang out, aimed at the neighborhood. The source of the shooting was the Abu-Sneneh hills, towering above the Jewish apartments. These hills too were given to Arafat on a silver platter three and a half years ago. They now house terrorist bases, off-limits to Israeli forces, and ignored, if not spurred on, by Jibril Rajoub, the terrorist thug in charge of Arafat's security in Hebron. Again, several apartments were hit by enemy gunfire, with bullets penetrating several apartments. Kiryat Arba, five minutes outside of the center of Hebron was also shot at by the terrorists.

Fortunately, Israel's security forces were not caught standing idly by. They were prepared for the onslaught. As soon as the Arab gunfire began, they returned fire.  For five hours, until 3:00 am, shots rang back and forth between the Arab-controlled hills and the Jewish neighborhoods. It was nothing less than total war. The intensity of the shooting was deafening. Israeli snipers, stationed at strategic points throughout the area, did not hesitate to do what had to be done. They shot back without restraint.

Male residents of the Jewish neighborhoods, in coordination with the Israeli Defense Forces, took up positions, taking care to guard against any possible infiltration by terrorists. Others assured that families were safe and that no one was hurt. Still others attended to the fighting forces, serving coffee and refreshments during breaks in the shooting.

Expectations for a real, long-term, 'cease-fire' are not high. Already this morning, following Arafat's initial agreement to 'stop the violence' rock-throwing and tire burning has commenced in Hebron. Warnings of additional shooting have been issued to the Jewish residents. If the shooting starts again tonight, nobody will be surprised.

A reporter asked me earlier this morning if Arik Sharon is responsible for this wave of violence, both in Hebron and throughout Judea, Samaria and Gazza. My answer left no room for doubt: "The responsibility for this war lies with those who prepared, and then signed the Oslo Accords six years ago. Those still active in Israeli politics include Yossi Beilin, presently Minister of Justice, and Shimon Peres, also a minister in Barak's government. When Yitzhak Rabin signed the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn, this war became inevitable. Together with others in Yesha we warned of the consequences of Oslo. Those warnings fell on deaf ears and blind eyes. Even now, at the peak of fighting, when shots are being fired into Gilo in south Jerusalem, and in Nazereth, and in Acre, and during riots by 'Israeli Arabs' in Jaffa, Israeli ministers insist on reciting the holy mantra: We must continue the peace talks in order to achieve a better future for our children.""

The absurdity has reached inhuman levels. A few days ago Minister Ephraim Sneh was caught in a shooting attack at the Binyamin community Psagot, where people have spent days in bomb shelters due to the shootings. When the attack began Sneh said, "Nu, they're shooting. So what?!"  He also stated, "Just as I disagree with your outlook on settling (Eretz Yisrael), I disagree with your outlook on security." So says a senior minister in an Israeli government.

The attacks on Israelis, both in Hebron and throughout Israel are only part of the problem. Over the last week, much of the country has been paralyzed due to closing of major roads. In many cases the Israeli army, rather than try to insure security on the roads, simply closes them. One of the most  ludicrous instances concerns the trans-Judea highway, leading from Hebron to Ashkelon via Kiryat Gat. This road also provides easy access to Beit Shemesh, bypassing Jerusalem. A few miles out of Hebron is  the Halhul bridge which crosses over the road from above. This bridge is considered to be "area A" which is under total Arafat control. The road is "area C" under Israeli control.

For the past week Arabs have been using the bridge to bombard any moving vehicle with Israeli license plates traveling under it. Rather than send in Israeli troops to take over the bridge, or rather than use one Lowe missle to take the bridge down, Israel has closed the road. This, because the road is in "Arafat territory" and Israeli prefers not to 'react too harshly' to the continued attacks.

What are we doing about the problems at hand? Hebron's leadership is demanding that the IDF be instructed to take any and all actions to protect Jews in Hebron, including excursions into the H1 Arafat controlled territory and the recapturing of the hills overlooking the Jewish neighborhoods of Hebron. Without retaking these hills there is no way to fully guarantee cessation of shooting at the Jewish neighborhoods.

We are also demanding that actions be incorporated to allow reopening of all roads to safe Jewish travel.  If Arabs continue to cause closing of key roads, Israel must employ sanctions which will bring our enemy to its knees. For example, Arab traffic throughout Yesha must be limited, if not totally halted. Also, the entrances from Gazza into Israel proper must be closed, including the "secure passage road."  Arab trucks carrying agricultural produce into Israeli must be prevented from leaving Gazza. These restrictions, together with other security measures that need not be detailed, will create a situation whereby the Arabs realize that they must pay a steep price for their terrorist actions.

The warfare of the past week has put us in the center of the crosshairs of Arab Kalashnikovs and M-16s. This situation cannot, and will not continue. With G-d's help, our primary source of security is the Israeli Defense Forces. They are doing all in their power to offer us safety. Still, their hands are tied, and they face restrictions not allowing them to actualize all measures at their disposal to protect us.  We prefer not to feel forced into implementing measures outside the borders of IDF action.  However, we do not intend to remain moving targets for terrorist sharpshooters crouched in the overlooking Abu-Sneneh and Harat al-Shech hills.

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