(by Eli Lake, NYSun.com) WASHINGTON – A plan to build a security fence along Israel’s 100-mile border with Egypt will get a new look after yesterday’s suicide bomb attack in Eilat.
An Israeli diplomat here yesterday confirmed details disclosed in a Jerusalem Post story that reported a 2005 plan known as “Hour Glass” to build an electronic fence along the portion of Israel that abuts the Sinai Desert. The proposal, estimated to cost more than $1 billion, was rejected at the time because of the expense.
Three separate terrorist groups yesterday claimed credit for the bombing of an Eilat bakery, in which three people were killed in addition to the suicide bomber.
Hamas, the terrorist affiliated party that controls the Palestinian Authority legislature and government ministries, issued a statement saying the attack was the response to Israeli aggression.
Prime Minister Olmert told reporters, “We will continue with our unending struggle against terrorists and those who dispatch them.” Last night, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz quoted anonymous Israeli sources as saying no counterattacks were planned for the time being. At the same time, other Israeli papers said preparations for such an attack were being made in Jerusalem.
The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, issued a statement saying his Fatah Party intended to maintain the cease-fire with Israel. The most likely perpetrator of the attack is Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which yesterday claimed credit for the attack and said the bomber, Mohammed al-Siksik, had prepared for the attack for seven months in Jordan.
The most important detail on the attack came from the Israeli minister for public security, Avi Dichter. Mr. Dichter yesterday said the bomber left Gaza through the Rafah Gate and entered Egypt’s Sinai desert, which Israel ceded to Egypt in the 1978 Camp David Accords. Siksik then traveled through the Sinai’s infamous smuggling routes to the border between Egypt and the resort town of Eilat. At the border he hitched a ride with an Israeli Jew, Yossi Waltinsky, to a gas station wearing the apparatus that contained the 15 kilogram explosive. “There have been 100 such attempts in the last year,” an Israeli security official said yesterday with regard to efforts of terrorists to infiltrate Israel through its border with the Sinai. This official also said the Rafah Crossing has been a source of smuggling and the export of terror.
Israel relies on the Egyptians to protect the crossing between Gaza and Egypt. In the past, however, the Egyptians have failed to stop the flow of Qassam rockets that have been used by Hamas and other groups in attacks on Israel. The attack yesterday on the resort town of Eilat was unusual; suicide bombers have concentrated their attacks on places such as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
The White House responded to the bombing with a statement saying, “The burden of responsibility for preventing terrorist attacks rests with the Palestinian Authority government. Failure to act against terror will inevitably affect relations between that government and the international community and undermine the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own.”
A former senior Pentagon official in the Reagan administration and adviser to President Bush in his 2000 campaign, Richard Perle, yesterday said he was not sure if erecting another fence was the right move.
“When you look at the fence alongside the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv road, it makes a lot of sense,” he said. “You can’t wall off the whole Sinai, though.”
Reprinted here with permission from The New York Sun. Visit the website at NYSun.com.
1. a) At what location will Israel reconsider a 2005 plan to build a security fence?
b) What is the estimated cost of the fence? How many miles would it cover?
c) Why is the Israeli government considering reviving this plan?
2. a) What is Hamas?
b) What explanation did Hamas give for the suicide bomb attack?
3. Reports vary as to whether the Israeli government will launch a counterattack. Do you think they should do so? Explain your answer.
4. a) Who is Mahmoud Abbas?
b) What has he said in response to the suicide bombing?
5. How did President Bush react to the attack?
6. a) How did the suicide bomber get into the Israeli town of Eilat? (For maps of Israel, go to WorldAtlas and the Jerusalem Post here and here.)
b) How many similar attempts were thwarted in the past year by Israeli security?
7. Former Pentagon official Richard Pearle does not think that building a security fence is the best idea. What do you think? Be specific.
ON THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY’S RULING POLITICAL PARTIES:
The Palestinian Authority is currently ruled by two parties, Fatah and Hamas.
Fatah ruled the Palestinian Authority from its establishment in 1994 until 2006. [Yasser Arafat was the head of Fatah until his death in 2004.] Fatah is a major secular Palestinian political party…. In Palestinian politics it is on the center-left of the spectrum. ….. [Since its loss as the ruling party] it has … been described oftentimes in the media as the more “moderate” party, although many dispute this due to its past actions and current policies. (from Wikipedia.org)
Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni Islamist terrorist organization that currently (since January 2006) forms the majority party of the Palestinian Authority.… Hamas is known outside the Palestinian territories for its suicide bombings and other attacks directed against Israeli civilians, as well as military and security forces targets. Hamas’ charter…calls for the destruction of the State of Israel and its replacement with a Palestinian Islamic state in the area that is now Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. …………..Since the death of …Yasser Arafat…, Hamas’ political wing has entered and won many local elections… In January 2006, Hamas won a surprise victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections…. Since Hamas has taken control, the Palestinian territories have experienced a period of sharp internal conflicts, known as Fauda (anarchy), in which many Palestinians have been killed in internecine fighting. (from Wikipedia.org)
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