Security Source: Harsh Response if Attacks Continue

Despite the formation of the Palestinian national unity government, the military wing of Hamas has resumed terror attacks.

Yesterday Hamas took responsibility for shooting and moderately wounding an Israeli civilian on the Gaza Strip border, while in Sinai Egyptian troops caught a Hamas activist from Gaza, who reportedly planned a suicide attack in Israel.

Senior government sources said yesterday that Hamas' attack proves the organization has not changed or modified its ways but is persisting in terror acts. There is no place to negotiate with Hamas until it renounces violence and recognizes the international community's terms, which are a basic condition for talks with Hamas, the sources said.

"The time for talk is over," a senior Israeli defense source told Haaretz yesterday, following the attack on the Gazan border. "If the cease-fire disruptions persist, the IDF will react harshly againt the Palestinian terror organizations."

Israeli security sources said yesterday that the orders for the last attacks came from senior Hamas leaders. "Hamas is a disciplined organization. No attack is inadvertent. The activists received an order from higher up," a source said.

Hamas' military wing issued an announcement claiming it had carried out the attack.

"Al-Qassam brigades are not bound by the Tahdiya, as long as the Zionist enemy is not bound by it," a spokesman for the military wing said, using the term for the unofficial "lull" in hostilities.

He emphasized, however, that Hamas does not intend to cause an escalation in the fighting. "It is our natural right to resist the occupation," he said. Since the cease-fire with Israel in the Gaza Strip, Hamas has refrained from public announcements of this kind.

Since its participation in the abduction of the soldier Gilad Shalit with the Popular Resistance Committees, last June, Hamas has significantly reduced its involvement in armed hostilities against Israel. However, the Israeli defense establishment assumes the military wing is still assisting other groups, such as the Islamic Jihad, to carry out terror attacks.

Yesterday's attack could be related to the formation of the Palestinian national unity government on Saturday. Senior Hamas officials have said in the past that they would not give up the organization's right to "resist occupation" - that is, to engage in violence. A limited terror attack like the one carried out on the Gaza Strip border demonstrate's Hamas' ability to act, while not being serious enough to evoke a sharp Israeli protest.

However, Palestinian defense sources yesterday suggested another explanation for the attack. They said two commanders of Hamas' military wing, Jamal al-Jarah and Yusuf al-Zahar, brother of former foreign minister Mahmoud al-Zahar, were responsible for the attacks. The two are spearheading a move within the militia against the unity government, as well as initiating abductions and shooting incidents directed at Fatah people, they said.

"In the next few days they will continue to attempt to carry out terror attacks and escalate their activity against Israel. They hope that Israel will react sharply and cripple the national unity government," a Palestinian defense source predicted.

Both al-Jarah and al-Zahar have political ambitions and expectations of Hamas' leadership in Gaza and Damascus, the source said. "We have no doubt that senior officials in the political wing of Hamas, who have not received a position in the unity government, are also involved in these attacks," the source said, hinting at al-Zahar and former interior minister Said Siyam.

While Hamas is resuming its attack attempts, the IDF is preparing for an escalation vis-a-vis the Palestinians in the coming months.

The chair of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Kadima), said yesterday that a military confrontation between Israel and the Palestinians in the near future was inevitable, adding that "only a miracle could prevent it."

Hanegbi receives current updates and briefings from the IDF and Shin Bet.

The Egyptian police reported yesterday that they had detained a would-be Hamas suicide bomber next to the Israeli border as he was awaiting instructions to carry out a terrorist attack inside Israel.

They said that Salah Adnan Salah Abed al-Salam, a 21-year-old student, had confessed that he was a Hamas member and said the organization was going to give him an explosive belt and instructions for a suicide bombing in Israel.

Mohammed Badar, an officer in the north Sinai police, told news agencies that Abed al-Salam was arrested as he was coming out of a mosque in el-Arish. He was transferred to Cairo for further questioning.

Al-Salam was a student of science and economics in Gaza's al-Azhar University. A year ago he moved to Cairo's al-Azhar University, at the instructions of Hamas.

The Israeli who was wounded yesterday was one of a group of Electric Corporation employees working near Kibbutz Nahal Oz. At about 11:30 A.M. snipers opened fire at them, hitting one worker in the hip. He was evacuated to Be'er Sheva's Soroka Hospital.

In another incident, a Palestinian woman tried to stab an IDF military policewoman at the Hawara roadblock south of Nablus. An IDF spokesman said the woman, 32, had refused to be examined at the barrier, then pulled out a knife and attacked the policewoman. The policewoman and a few soldiers overcame the attacker, who was questioned and appears to be mentally unstable. None of the soldiers was hurt.