Developments in Palestinian terror strategy and thinking

November 12, 2002

* Below: Examples of the use of ambulances and medical services for terrorism by Palestinian groups in contravention of international law



1. Palestinian groups have been planning a large attack at Ben-Gurion airport
2. "Mortar bombs are being fired from densely populated areas"
3. "Arafat blocked reform efforts"
4. "Jordan FM calls Palestinians to stop suicide attacks" (, Nov. 8, 2002)
5. Sgt.-Maj. Madin Grifat: A Bedouin killed by Palestinian terrorists
6. "Palestinians admit: 'Mortar bombs are being fired from densely populated areas'" (IDF, Nov. 12, 2002)
7. Cases of abuse: Terror ambulances (Nov. 6, 2002)
8. "Palestinians near airport said to have planned suicide bombing" (Jerusalem Post, Nov. 6, 2002)
9. "Masked men blow up home of Moscow hostage-taker" (Reuters, Nov. 8, 2002)
10. "Arafat blocked reform efforts, ex-minister says" (Globe and Mail, Canada, Nov. 12, 2002)


[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach a variety of articles related to Palestinian terror attacks (with a summary first for those who don't have time to read them in full):

1. The Jordanian foreign minister has called on Palestinians to halt suicide attacks but only during the Israeli election period.

2. Obituary of Sgt.-Maj. Madin Grifat, from the IDF website. Grifat, a Bedouin, is the second member of his family to be killed by Palestinian terrorists this year a reminder that this dispute is less a conflict between Jews and Arabs, but between those who would destroy the democratic state of Israel and murder her inhabitants and those who would protect her.


3. "Palestinian Authority admits: Mortar bombs are being fired from densely populated areas". The official Palestinian Authority daily "Al-Hayat Al Jadida" (November 7, 2002) writes that Palestinian civilians in the Gaza strip are asking for the Nationalist (i.e. Arafatian) and Islamic forces to stop firing mortar bombs at Israeli towns from within densely populated Palestinian areas.

4. "Cases of abuse: Terror ambulances" (November 6, 2002). Examples of the use of medical services for the purpose of promoting terrorist activity by Palestinian groups in contravention of international law.

5. "Palestinians near airport said to have planned suicide bombing" (The Jerusalem Post, November 6, 2002). This is one of a number of recent reports that indicate that Palestinian groups have been planning a large attack at Ben-Gurion airport.


6. "Masked men blow up home of Moscow hostage-taker" (Reuters, Moscow, November 8, 2002). Just as the Americans are copying the Israeli tactic of "targeted killing" of active terrorists (in Yemen), despite persistently criticizing Israel for doing the same thing, Russia is now copying the Israeli tactic of destroying terrorists' homes, despite persistently criticizing Israel for doing the same thing.

7. "Arafat blocked reform efforts, ex-minister says" (The Globe and Mail, Canada, November 12, 2002). Arafat's former interior minister accuses the Palestinian leader of personally preventing financial reform and promoting attacks on Israelis.



Jordan FM calls Palestinians to stop suicide attacks
November 8, 2002

The Jordanian foreign minister has called on Palestinians to halt suicide bombing attacks during the upcoming Israeli election period.

Marwan Muasher warned Palestinians that suicide attacks during the election period could contribute to the election of a far right-wing government in Israel.

Speaking to the London-based A-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper, the Jordanian minister stressed that the collapse of Sharon's government was a result of domestic issues and not of the peace process.



Sgt.-Maj. Madin Grifat

Nov 9, 2002 Sgt.-Maj. Madin Grifat, 23, of Beit Zarzir was killed when a mine exploded during a routine patrol northeast of Netzarim in the Gaza Strip.

Grifat, a tracker, was leading the unit when the mine was detonated, and died of his wounds shortly afterward. A Givati Brigade company commander who was following just meters behind was wounded. Madin had been at home on leave on Friday, due to return to the his unit on Monday. He returned early, however, when asked to take another soldier's place. The Islamic Jihad's Jerusalem Brigade claimed responsibility for the attack.

Madin Grifat was the 28th soldier from the Bedouin village of Beit Zarzir in the Galilee to die in combat. His close friend and relative, Lt. Malik Grifat, was killed on Sept 5, 2002 when a Palestinian terrorist opened fire towards an IDF patrol near Nisanit in the northern Gaza Strip.

Madin's father Salah Grifat related, "My son served in Gaza since the beginning of his army service, and after he completed his mandatory stint in the army, he signed up for career service. He was a quiet, good person the best of my five sons." Madin had begun building his home in the village and planned to marry. His cousin Mansur added that Madin "loved the army and was proud to serve in the army."

Sgt.-Maj. Madin Grifat was buried in the military section of the Beit Zarzir cemetery. He is survived by his parents, Salah and Fatma, four brothers one a twin and five sisters.



Palestinians admit: "Mortar bombs are being fired from densely populated areas"
IDF website
November 12, 2002

The official Palestinian Authority daily Al-Hayat Al Jadida published (November 7, 2002) that Palestinians in the Gaza strip are asking for the Nationalist and Islamic forces to stop firing mortar bombs from within densely populated areas.

This is not the first time that these kinds of complaints have been voiced. However, despite previous calls on the forces to halt their policy of using highly populated areas as cover, the firing from these areas has not ceased.

"Palestinian residents of Al Barka and areas close to the community of Kfar Darom have called on the Nationalist and Islamic forces to stop firing, and especially from firing mortar bombs, from areas close to inhabited houses. Firing from densely populated areas just brings damage and destruction to the residents and their property."

"The residents presented their case during a meeting which took place in the offices of the Nationalist forces in Dir El Balach to which a number of Islamic armed faction members participated. The residents stated that most of the mortar bombs fired actually fell short of their targets, landing instead on Palestinian buildings and land. This, they said, poses a danger to the lives and security of the residents."

"The residents call upon you to take into account the well being of the population and to ensure their security before carrying out any kind of militant action"



Cases of abuse: Terror ambulances
November 6, 2002

Examples of the use of medical services for the purpose of promoting terrorist activity by Palestinian groups in contravention of international law:

* In August, Israel complained that Palestinian terrorist organizations were making use of medical services for the purpose of disguising their terrorist activity. The statement said: "Many of their members travel in ambulances, transporting arms in them as well, thus taking cynical advantage of the fact that ambulances are not subject to strict security checks."

* In July, members of the Tanzim were traveling in ambulances throughout the cities of the Gaza Strip. On July 1, for example, Tanzim members traveled in ambulances in the city of Nablus.

* On June 30, ambulances from the Sheikh Zaid Hospital in Ramallah transported wanted terrorists to and from the hospital and to various other places inside the city while it was under curfews.

* On July 1, two wanted terrorists were brought to the hospital by ambulance from the area known as Sarait Ramallah.

* In March 2002, armed and wanted terrorists in Ramallah used ambulances in order to move about the city. They wore doctors' gowns and often hid in various wards in the city's hospitals.

* One of the documents seized during Operation Defensive Shield mentions a Palestinian ambulance in which arms were concealed in the floor. Another captured document reveals that the Palestinian General Intelligence used an ambulance to transport an arrested suspect from Husan to Bethlehem.

* The most prominent example of this phenomenon is the apparent use of a medical vehicle or medical accreditation to help carry out the suicide terror attack on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem on January 27. The woman suicide bomber, Wafa Idris, worked as a medical secretary for the Palestinian Red Crescent. Investigation indicates that Idris was sent to commit this suicide attack by Mohammed Hababa, a Tanzim operative and ambulance driver for the Palestinian Red Crescent.

Among the group that planned the attack was Munzar Noor, who also works for the Red Crescent in Ramallah. Israel security officials do not yet have a clear picture of how Idris made her way from Ramallah to Jerusalem. However, investigators believe that the Red Crescent documentation held by the suicide bomber and her accomplices, and perhaps even a Red Crescent vehicle, helped them through IDF roadblocks and eased the checks they had to undergo.

* Last October, Israeli security forces arrested Nidal Nizal, a Hamas operative from Kalkilya, brother of Natzar Nazal, one of the leaders of the Hamas in the city. Nazal worked as an ambulance driver for the Palestinian Red Crescent, and there is information indicating that he exploited his relatively easy movement around the West Bank to serve as a messenger among Hamas headquarters in the various towns.



Ma'ariv, November 6, 2002, reports that a suicide-terrorist has been captured near Ben-Gurion airport. Following pursuit that continued for long hours, during which Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway was closed, terrorist was captured near midnight at El Al junction.


Palestinians near airport said to have planned suicide bombing
By Margot Dudkevich
The Jerusalem Post
November 6, 2002

A Gaza Strip resident believed to have been planning a suicide bombing was arrested shortly after midnight on Tuesday at a roadblock set up at the El Al intersection near Ben-Gurion Airport.

His arrest came just hours after security forces beefed up their presence on main highways in the Negev and the Ramle and Lod areas after receiving a warning that a terrorist was believed to have entered the country from Gaza.

Roadblocks were set up on main highways and at the entrances to cities and towns, and helicopters were deployed to assist in the search.

Two other suspects who were also detained were later released.

Hours later police raided an apartment in Lod and arrested four Palestinians suspected of being involved in terrorist activities. All five suspects were handed over to the Shin Bet for questioning.

Meanwhile in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, security forces continued to crack down on suspects involved in terrorist activities.

In the Balata refugee camp, five fugitives affiliated with the Hamas and Tanzim were arrested. Four fugitives were arrested in Silat a-Daher, Jiba'a, and Sebastiya, while three were arrested in El Bireh. One of the three was later identified as Ahmed Anabi, responsible for a number of shooting attacks at Psagot. Three fugitives were arrested in the al-Amari refugee camp.

Security forces arrested one Palestinian fugitive in the central Gaza Strip and another near the Rafah crossing.

Elsewhere in the Gaza Strip prior to the shooting attack in which two Israelis were murdered in Peat Sadeh, three mortar shells were fired at an Israeli community in Gush Katif, landing near the hothouses but causing no casualties. Shots were fired at soldiers in Gush Katif and at IDF posts near the communities Neveh Dekalim and Gadid and also at soldiers posted near Rafah. No one was wounded in the attacks and no damage reported.



Masked men blow up home of Moscow hostage-taker
November 8, 2002

Masked men in military fatigues blew up the family home of one of 50 Chechen rebels killed after they seized a Moscow theater and held hundreds of people hostage last month, Russian media said on Friday.

The group of heavily-armed men arrived late on Thursday at the home of one of several young female guerrillas who took part in the theater siege. They evacuated two women and two children from the house before the blast.

There was no acknowledgement from Russian army that it was involved in the demolition in the village of Achkoi-Martan, southwest of Grozny, capital of the turbulent Caucasus republic of Chechnya.

But the incident recalled tactics employed by Israel, which has demolished homes of families of militants who have carried out suicide bombings against the Jewish state.

"Whoever did this Russian troops or rebels this is first and foremost a crime against the unfortunate people who live there," said Aslanbek Aslakhanov, the deputy who represents Chechnya in the Russian parliament.

In a cautious statement, Kremlin human rights commissioner Oleg Mironov said: "The blasting of a house...leaves a problematic impression and clearly has a political message.

"Such a terrible response to a terrorist act tells us that people have lost patience and want a peaceful life," Mironov said in the statement quoted by Interfax news agency.

The theater siege brought Chechnya back onto the Russian political agenda. It ended when Russian forces stormed the building, but some 128 hostages died, most of them from gas used by the troops to immobilize the guerrillas.

President Vladimir Putin has since called for "new approaches" to deal with security challenges and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has announced tough new measures to rein in rebels in Chechnya.

But Putin warned last week that all operations in the region should be "well-directed and targeted," a clear condemnation of the massive use of force and brutal sweep operations condemned by Western governments and human rights monitors.

Rights group Amnesty International urged the European Union on Friday to confront Putin over the issue at a Brussels summit scheduled for November 11.

Moscow, which has been fighting separatists in the Caucasus for the best part of a decade, says it controls Chechnya after a second military onslaught launched in October 1999. But troops and pro-Moscow officials are targeted by rebels almost daily.

A Russian servicemen was killed and three were injured late on Thursday when their car hit a mine in the Achkoi-Martan region, Interfax said.



Arafat blocked reform efforts, ex-minister says
By Paul Adams
The Globe and Mail (Canada)
November 12, 2002

When a leading reformer and outspoken critic of suicide bombings left Yasser Arafat's government this fall, he told the Palestinian leader he was fed up with the corruption and militancy of security forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Abdel Razak Yehiyeh said that during his term as Palestinian interior minister, he was prevented from demilitarizing the police forces and overruled when he tried to remove several commanders who had participated in attacks on Israelis.

He said he found the task of reforming the police impossible. "The ones I did succeed in moving are now back in their jobs."

Although also deeply critical of Israeli policy, Mr. Yehiyeh's complaints, which he is making public for the first time, confirm some of Israel's criticisms of Mr. Arafat: That while he may mouth a commitment to reform and an end to military confrontation with Israel, he often opposes it in practice.

Mr. Yehiyeh, who left cabinet last month, was appointed interior minister in June, at a time when Mr. Arafat was under intense international pressure to demonstrate his willingness to reform.

Mr. Yehiyeh quickly launched an ambitious plan to "demilitarize" the conflict with Israel and streamline the web of Palestinian police and security forces.

"I was against any kind of armed struggle," said Mr. Yehiyeh, who is a former general of both the Syrian army and the Palestinian Liberation Army. "I was in disagreement with the concept."

Mr. Yehiyeh shocked some Palestinians with his frank denunciations of suicide attacks on Israelis, which he described as both tactically and morally misguided. He said that the suicide-bombing campaign "contradicts our religious, moral and cultural beliefs." He argued for replacing armed resistance to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories with civil resistance.

Although he was careful to avoid criticizing Mr. Arafat directly during the interview, it was clear that he became exasperated with the obstacles the Palestinian leader put in his way.

"The issue of commanders in the police sector was a big issue," he said. "It was difficult to convince the leadership to make changes."

Mr. Yehiyeh hinted that Mr. Arafat was shocked at demonstrations that erupted after he ousted the Palestinian security chief on the West Bank, Jibril Rajoub. For a time, Mr. Rajoub waged a defiant public campaign to retain his job. "At the end of the day, I am a soldier," Mr. Yehiyeh said, "and I would not tolerate anyone staying in place beyond his time."

Mr. Yehiyeh said his efforts to dampen the conflict with Israel, although they enjoyed broad international support, were also deliberately undermined by militant organizations such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.

When he negotiated a scheme for Israel to hand over security control of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank city of Bethlehem, the militants launched attacks on settlements and Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip.

"The factions in the Gaza Strip that were opposed to my strategy launched attacks that provoked the Israeli defense minister [then Binyamin Ben-Eliezer] to cancel negotiations," he said.

In frustration, Mr. Yehiyeh sent a letter to Mr. Arafat on Sept. 9, saying that he was "suspending" his work as interior minister. Mr. Arafat tried unsuccessfully to persuade him to change his mind. However, that drama was obscured by a political earthquake two days later when the Palestinian parliament forced the entire cabinet to resign in protest over the cronyism and corruption of Mr. Arafat's government.

By the time Mr. Arafat appointed a new cabinet last month, he had recuperated some of his political strength as a result of an Israeli siege of his home and office in Ramallah. He replaced the independent Mr. Yehiyeh with Hani al-Hassan, a long-time associate.

Mr. Arafat's aides suggested at the time that Mr. Yehiyeh did not want to return to government because of the illness of his wife, which he flatly denied. He had no intention of returning to the government, he insisted, once it was evident that he could not achieve real reform.

Mr. Yehiyeh is critical of his successor, Mr. al-Hassan, who has said that he opposes Palestinian attacks inside Israel but sees nothing wrong with attacks on Israeli soldiers or Jewish settlers in the Palestinian territories.

"From a legal and theoretical point of view that may be correct," he said. "But I look at it in terms of profit and loss. This won't do us any good and we should stop it."

Remarkably, despite the frustrations he faced, Mr. Yehiyeh believes that the idea of replacing armed struggle with civil resistance is gaining ground with the Palestinian public, for whom the two-year-old uprising has brought a life of daily misery.

"I believe that future events and situations will eventually impose [themselves] on the Palestinian government," he said, "and it will have no choice but to undertake reform."

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.