Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Thursday, “We are in one of the most significant moments with respect to deciding the rules of the game between us and terrorist elements in the Palestinian Authority in the coming period." The defense minister was speaking during a meeting convened with top security officials in his Tel Aviv office to assess the situation.
During the meeting, Peretz approved further steps of Operation Summer Rain in Gaza and ordered the government's operations coordinator in the territories to continuously report on the “humanitarian situation in Gaza.”
Peretz instructed security officials to examine every ground operation “for ifs affectivity.” He noted that despite the fact that at this stage the political-diplomatic dimension has been fruitless in effecting the return of kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit, it may gain sudden momentum.
During the afternoon hours, the air force air-dropped leaflets on southern Gaza calling on Palestinians to avoid fighting against Israeli security forces, not to wander around in areas in which the IDF was operating, and to comply with IDF instructions for the sake of their own safety. Similar flyers were scattered over northern Gaza Wednesday.
Operation Summer Rain in Gaza (Photo: AP)
Regarding the IAF’s sortie over Syria Wednesday, Peretz noted that northern forces were on high alert and in the case of Hizbullah provocations, were instructed to respond with severity so as to prevent another front from opening in the north.
Regarding the overnight arrest of senior Hamas figures, Peretz said, “This is a move which proves that none of the Hamas leaders is protected or has immunity. Israel has clarified the seriousness of its intentions.”
“Hamas is a terror organization that initiates and executes terror activities against the state of Israel. Thus, security forces carried out a series of arrests among the Hamas leadership in the Central Command and Jerusalem. Among the detained are ministerial members of the Hamas government, parliament members and a row of senior operatives,” the IDF said in a statement Thursday.
Among top Hamas members arrested overnight was Muhammad Barghouti, 48, Labor minister in the Hamas government and one of the founding members of the group’s Ramallah branch. Barghouti was arrested after intelligence information linked him to terror activities carried out by the group’s military wing in Ramallah.
Senior Hamas detainees (Photo: AFP)
Abed al Jabar Foukha, 40, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Committee with an extensive history in Hamas’ armed wing in the West Bank. He is linked to abetting a series of terrorist acts 1996, among other activities.
Nayef Al Rajoub, 50, Minister of Endowments and Islamic Affairs and senior Hamas leader in villages around Hebron, has had numerous previous arrests and is well known as an extremist who frequently delivered incendiary speeches against Israel calling for continued terrorism.
Khaled Abu Arafa, 55, resident of Jerusalem and Minister of Jerusalem Affairs was a senior Hamas activist in the city, and had also been arrested in the past.
Adnan Asfour, 46, a Hamas leader in Nablus, was thought to set the tone of Hamas policy in the West Bank and to be key in raising money abroad for Hamas activities. He was appointed by Khaled Mashaal to the post of Hamas spokesman in Nablus, and in the framework of that position communicated with Mashaal regularly to receive instructions from him on Hamas’ official position.
Vajiya Nazal, 40, a prominent Hamas leader in Judea and Samaria and mayor of Qalqilya, was just released from arrest in April 2006. He was behind numerous attacks on Israel including the Dolfinarium night club suicide bombing in Tel Aviv five years ago, which killed 21 youths.