C o m m e n t terror returns to Israel, but it never really went away

Israeli army subdivisions and police units are again on alert. Local radio reports that radical Islamic organisations are preparing a new wave of terrorist attacks on Israeli territory. Special precautionary measures are now being taken in Jerusalem and towns in central Israel. Additional police check points are being set up and reinforced patrols are on the streets.

The terrorist attack last Wednesday evening near the Arab settlement Um-el-Fahm, which lies between Afula and Hadera, has once again put Israelis in fear. The country had not been shattered by the sounds of exploding bombs for about a month and a half. The last suicide bomber to blow himself on a bus travelling between Haifa and Tsfat had done so on August 4th.

Accordingly, one could say that terror has returned to Israel. However, according to many people, it never went away, but somehow dies down. In particular, Police Inspector-General Shlomo Aharonisky said on radio on Thursday that the month and a half of relative calm was most likely the result of a series of coincidences and not the anti-terrorist operation conducted by the army on Palestinian territory. He stressed that the terrorist threat remained as real for Israel as it had been before.

Israel is now again facing the need to take the toughest measures to prevent terrorist attacks. The demolition of houses in the Abu-Dis settlement near Jerusalem served as new evidence of the resolute stand taken by the Israelis. The houses belonged to the families of two terrorists who blew themselves up in the centre of Jerusalem last December. In the Palestinian Authority this kind of practice is "collective punishment" for the crimes of one person.

A few observers have said that such tough measures in the fight against terrorism could lead to exactly the opposite reaction from Arabs that the Israelis are trying to secure, i.e. more suicide bombers could emerge to avenge the acts taken against their families. Israeli army units on the West Bank have continued to arrest Palestinians suspected of involvement in terrorist activity or having links with terrorist organisations. There were arrests in the regions of Nablus, Hebron, Tulkarem and Ramallah on Wednesday night. There are reports that prominent activists from the Martyrs of al-Aqsa, Tanzim and Islamic Jihad organisations were detained.

The leadership of the latter organisation has taken responsibility for the explosion near Um-el-Fahm on Wednesday evening. It declared that the terrorist attack had been ordered to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Israeli initiated slaughter at the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Lebanon. A pamphlet distributed by Islamic Jihad said that the "Palestinian forces of resistance to the Israeli occupation" would continue to strike against then "Zionist enemy." Many Israelis, above all those on the left, have condemned similar actions by the ultra-right wingers, stressing that "revenge is the road to nowhere" and that you cannot not act like terrorists, if you condemn them. A ten-year-old child was killed on Wednesday night in a firefight when Israeli army units conducted the operation in Ramallah.

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