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Interview: Israeli intelligence bracing up for renewed escalation of planned attacks
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11:10, March 09, 2008

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The Israeli intelligence has been bracing up for renewed escalation of terror attacks, following the shooting attack in a religious school in Jerusalem Thursday night without intelligence ahead of the attack.

"The big question in recent weeks was not 'if', but rather 'when and where'. Regrettably, our worst fears had materialized," a field operations officer with Israel's General Security Service (GSS) told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

Eight Israeli students were killed and a dozen others wounded in a deadly shooting attack in Merkaz Harav yeshiva in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood in Jerusalem on Thursday night.

"Our intelligence on the ground is solid, though, as was proven by Thursday night's attack, it is not 100 percent impenetrable," said the GSS officer.

The big fear now expressed by Israeli decision-makers is from a potentially quick spillover of the violence in the south of the country and the Gaza Strip into Israel, including Jerusalem, and a renewal of terrorist attacks targeting civilians, after almost three years of relative calm and quiet.

GSS Chief Yuval Diskin warned in cabinet meetings this week that Hamas will soon try to carry out a wave of attacks using cells based in the West Bank in order to avenge the killings in Gaza.

As an echo of Diskin's warning, the GSS officer reaffirmed some local media reports that the relative calm in Jerusalem in recent years is "fictional" and an "illusion", saying "the citizens we protect naturally have no idea of what goes on behind the scenes and the things that I know."

"The only thing I can say is that in recent years we have managed to foil a fairly large number of planned attacks, each of which could have killed dozens," he said. "Right now we are revaluating our work in the West Bank and Jerusalem, and preparing for the revival of a new front."

According to Israeli political and defense officials and the senior political and defense analyst, Thursday's attack was fuelled by revenge for the escalated conflicts between Israel and Palestinians.

"On a purely military level, the assailant succeeded in proving that Israel is still vulnerable," said the GSS officer. "and exhibiting its operational capabilities - planning, collecting intelligence prior to the operation and then carrying it out."

Now the Israeli government is under the pressure both from the United States and the Israeli public.

The American administration is beginning to lose patience with the entire situation, like the rest of the international community while Israeli Prime Minister Olmert is expected to face immense pressures to cease all negotiations with the Palestinians and to order the army to increase the harshness of attacks in the Gaza Strip.

However, Israel's large military operation in the Gaza Strip, Operation Hot Winter, which ended this week, hasn't bore fruit as Qassam rocket attacks on Israeli towns continue. The killing of some top leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad also does not seem to dampen the motivation of the Palestinian organizations.

"Right now, we are all sitting tight, waiting to see what will happen next. I don't believe I will be seeing much of my family in the upcoming months," said the GSS officer.

Source: Xinhua



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