|The CIA believes Israel's Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon has decided to launch a retaliatory full-scale
attack on Palestinian-controlled territory if there is another suicide
bombing attack, according to Richard Sale of the UPI on 20 July.
"There's no question that he's going in," said a former CIA
official, referring to Sharon. The question for these sources was 'when.'
According to these sources, Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat
was already engaged in talks with Syria about relocating Palestinian
leaders to that country.
One former CIA official, still active in the region, said he believed that
Sharon would wait for the next in the recent wave of car-bomb attacks
before launching "a full-scale assault" designed to drive Arafat
into exile and destroy the PA. "You'll have public outrage, you'll
have high morale among the Israeli military -- it's the perfect
time," the official said.
Reports of an impending all-out Israeli attack have come as relations have
worsened between the Israeli government and the CIA. CIA Director George
Tenet negotiated the cease-fire aimed at halting the seemingly endless
violence in the West Bank and Gaza. The CIA has been at the center of the
Bush administration's efforts to stop the fighting between Palestinians
and the Israeli Defense Forces that has claimed more than 600 lives, most
of them Palestinians. But the cease-fire has all but collapsed, and
observers point out that its collapse could be seen as a CIA failure.
A State Department official said, "The situation does not look
good," and "We are all watching it," but he would not go so
far as to confirm the impending attack. He also added that the Hadassah
chain of hospitals in Israel "has been ratcheting up" its
UPI reported on 12 June that Israel's military was poised to carry out a
huge, full-force invasion that would involve two infantry and paratroop
divisions, an armored force, plus large numbers of U.S.-supplied F-16 and
F-15 jet fighters and Apache helicopter gunships that would attack the
West Bank and Gaza including the major Palestinian cities of Ramallah,
Qualqilya, Jericho, Tul karm, Nablus, Jenin, and Bethlehem. Portions of
the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would be captured and held for an
indeterminate length of time.
Under that plan, the Israeli forces would also capture and kill any
members of Hamas, Hezbollah, the Islamic Jihad or other organizations
defined by Israel as "terrorist." A "wanted list" has
already been drawn up by Israeli intelligence services and approved by
Sharon, according to a U.S. administration official.
At the time the plan was halted, thanks to strong warnings from senior
Bush administration officials, U.S. government sources said. There was no
official confirmation of this incident.
What worries some U.S. intelligence analysts is that, as one put it,
"all the logistic and other preparations" for such an assault
have been completed, including beefing up Israeli medical treatment
facilities. Others argue that the Israeli contingency plan has been in
place for some time as an option if the situation worsened. "The plan
is in place," a U.S. intelligence official said.
There has been a build-up of Israeli armor at strategic points, and the
Sharon government has ploughed up road links to the West Bank, splitting
the territory into eight blockaded zones, isolating Palestinian towns, and
fuel supplies in the Gaza Strip have been cut off to reduce Palestinian
The huge numbers of Palestinians expected to be arrested would be kept in
large detention centers, U.S. intelligence officials said.
An administration official pointed out that Sharon
has been "churning out a lot of diversionary smoke," including
false reports of Iranian soldiers moving into the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon,
fear of Iranian missiles, questionable reports of increasing Iraqi
activity. "Sharon is a fine strategist. He knows how to mislead and
distract," said an administration official.
A former Defense Intelligence Agency official, on the ground in the Gaza
Strip, told UPI on June 27 that Israeli Merkava tanks and M113 armored
personnel carriers were active around Netsarim and Khan Yunis, and that
"roads around settlements have been completely cut off from
Palestinian use while buildings, trees, and people have been moved
(bulldozed) as the Israelis clear fields of fire."
He added, "Israeli assassinations/abductions in Area A (the West Bank
and Gaza) have taken the rug out from under PA efforts, limited as they
may be in real capability, to keep the violence down or limited to 1967
This source added in the same report that Hebron, which contains 500,000
people, is ringed by Israeli settlements and IDF outposts and spoke of
OH58 Scout helicopters overhead.
Meanwhile both Israeli and US officials rejected on 20 July the deployment
of international peace monitors. The Palestinian Authority has for months
asked that monitors be placed in the West Bank, arguing they are needed to
protect Palestinian civilians from Israeli troops.