NEWS UPDATE FEBRUARY 2ND 2008
It was only to be expected. Israel was on full alert. The breaking down of the wall between Gaza and Egypt left the border open for 12 days, enough time for numerous terrorists to infiltrate Israel from the Sinai across the 300km border with the Negev Desert. Some had been arrested by the Egyptians in Sinai.
At 10.30am on Monday February 4th, for the first time for a year, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a shopping mall in Dimona, the town adjacent to Israel’s nuclear facility. Another suicide bomber was knocked out by the blast and was shot dead before he could detonate his own bomb. A 73 year old woman was killed and dozens injured.
It is a real cause of concern that various groups claimed responsibility: the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and (for the first time since 2004) Hamas. The worry is that this indicates that all these groups had sent terrorists into Sinai and genuinely believed the two bombers were theirs. This would confirm that numerous terrorists have infiltrated.
With Hamas agreement Egypt closed the border on Sunday February 3rd, erecting barbed wire and spikes set in concrete. However the absolute closure, which left some Gazans still in Egypt, led to violence in which 44 people, Gazans and Egyptians, were wounded. So Egypt re-opened the border. Egypt is taking a difficult route, negotiating with Hamas and yet refusing to accept them as the legitimate government of Palestine.
Hamas have asked Egypt to take over from Israel providing goods for Gaza. This would, of course, remove the economic weapon from Israel. Egypt hasn’t rejected the idea but it would face strong opposition from Fatah and the US. It would also have to accept responsibility for the economic welfare of Gaza.
Egypt wants Hamas and Fatah to co-operate in policing the border, with EU monitors. The EU monitors were withdrawn after the Hamas takeover of Gaza. Javier Solan, EU foreign policy spokesman, said the monitors could return if all parties agreed.
Meanwhile Shas, the right wing Israeli political party, has called on the government to cease negotiations with the Palestinians and to concentrate on building a fence across the 300km border with Egypt. The Israeli cabinet says it will do so by 2010 at the earliest at a cost of some $400-750 million. Others are calling for a harder line to be taken against Gaza.
1. For the traumatized and frightened people of Dimona and security for the people of Israel.
2. For the people of Gaza, still finding it difficult to obtain the necessities of life and for their protection from violence.
3. For God to frustrate the evil intentions of men and women of violence.
4. For proper control of the Gaza-Egypt border, perhaps with EU monitors.
5. For a successful government overseeing both the West Bank and Gaza, fostering peace negotiations, human welfare and extensively reducing violence.
6. For constructive relationships between Israel and Egypt.