People who use the expression “war against terror” normally believe they are being clear about what they mean. Our experience is that different people often mean very different things. And when a real shooting war against terror is underway, you might be surprised at how confused and confusing the reporting can be. So allow us to analyze a specific chain of incidents that is unfolding as we write.
Mid-week, Israeli papers carried alarming headline reports that the intelligence establishment had identified a specific gang of terrorists with so-called 'suicide-bombing' (in unambiguous terms: murder) in their plans. The gang was being pursued by the army in the Nablus area following a concrete, focused tip-off. We know from living through this sort of thing in the past that intelligence tips, while never 100% certain, are reliable indicators of events taking place far from the media spotlight.
Persuaded by the accuracy of the intelligence, the IDF and the Border Police mounted a serious operation in Nablus, focused on the city’s Ein Beit Ilma neighborhood and placing residents under curfew. (The Palestinian Arabs and most of the media call it a refugee camp, though it's plainly not a camp - see photo. And if the residents are refugees then the word needs an overhaul.) Israeli forces stayed in place for three violent days, carrying out many arrests (at last count, 49 Palestinian Arabs believed to be involved in terror activities) and engaging in fire-fights with heavily armed locals while coming under frequent sniper attack.
The outcome was important for us. Israeli soldiers located and apprehended a complete four-person cell of Palestinian Arab terrorists planning a suicide bombing – the cell identified in the intelligence reports. In the alphabet soup of Palestinian Arab terror, these barbarians were affiliated with HAMAS (i.e. the government of the Pal. Arabs) and with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Their names are Haled Nuri, Mustafa Nuri, Yusuf Nadi and Nihad Rashid Hasan Shakirat. In a report headlined "IDF captures head of Nablus cell planning suicide bombing", Haaretz says today, referring to Shakirat, that he was the head of a joint HAMAS and PFLP terror cell in the city and terror fugitive number one on Israel's list in Nablus.
Under interrogation, the cell-members admitted to planning a terrorist attack which the security forces below was set to happen today – the eve of Yom Kippur. Confession is a routine part of the terrorist modus operandi and psychology.
In an invaluable contribution to solving the problem, Mahmoud Abbas spoke at a press conference with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday, and called on Israel to withdraw from Nablus. He complained that the counter-terror operations amounted to a “policy of invasion”. For most rational people, this reaction is more or less expected. When you attack the agents of terror and then you interview their elegantly-suited spokespeople, they will tend to complain about counter-terrorist activity. Sadly, most journalists and their editors will report this with a straight face, afraid or incapable of trying to figure the complex situation out and reach appropriate conclusions.
We’ll point out that if you happen not to be Abbas, and you believe (as we do) that there ought to be constant, all-out war by all available means against the barbarians who bring terrorism and hatred into our lives, then the outcome was an excellent one – as good as it gets.
Now we'll add that the army also arrested two senior terrorists from Mahmoud Abbas’ FATAH in this operation: Ibrahim Ismail and Jamal Ismail. But it happens that the names of the two Ismails are on the list of individuals granted amnesty last month by Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert. The deal – criticized bitterly by many in this country, including the authors of this blog – involved Al-Aksa Brigades terrorists allegedly laying down their arms and the IDF agreeing to stop pursuing them. (See our blog article "17-Jul-07: The Joke's On Us", in which we quote Palestinian terrorists accurately characterizing the charade of handing their weapons to Abbas's official militias with this blunt assertion: "It's all a joke".)
Sadly, the joke goes on. Yediot Aharanot’s web edition says the FATAH men were released early this morning, mere hours after being arrested in that IDF counter-terror operation. Why? Because their arrest drew criticism from FATAH "higher echelons". These men, it's said, were active in kidnapping HAMAS members following FATAH’s defeat in Gaza. Their arrest would jeopardize the entire amnesty deal whereby Al-Aksa Brigades terrorists are supposed to hand in their arms and be given jobs with the Palestinian Authority. Hence the release. Understand? Neither do we.
Yesterday (Thursday) the Palestinian Authority said – and they ought to be believed on things like this – that Israel has now agreed to add 41 more Fatah terrorist fugitives to the current amnesty list of 300 in what’s dubbed a “goodwill gesture.” It’s of course possible that there are rational politicians and civil servants, fully in possession of the relevant facts, who make decisions like this intelligently and with the best interests of the people of this country in mind. We can hope. Right now, we’re deeply worried.
Back in Nablus, Palestinian sources are quoted in the media downplaying the IDF's operation and saying none of the arrested are terror suspects. In their version, senior figures from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in fact left town before the Israeli army forces entered. They also assert the city is subject to starvation (“Famine hits Al Ein camp”) and their claims are faithfully carried in the media. So is an Iranian story that "Israeli troops kidnap 20 Palestinians". The BBC manages to report "Two killed in West Bank clashes". Clashes - that's just the way the BBC likes this war against Palestinian Arab terror to be depicted.
The one headline we haven't seen yet, the one which might accurately sum up what's happened here this week, would be: "Terror massacre averted by proportionate, pro-active intervention; hundreds of innocent lives saved on eve of Day of Atonement".
Time to go and pray that the new year will be much better than the one just ended.