Iran urging Islamic Jihad to attack Israel
Iran continues to urge Islamic Jihad to carry out terror attacks against Israel ahead of the Knesset elections, Israeli intelligence sources say. According to the sources, the Iranian pressure on Islamic Jihad comes despite Tehran's declared support for Hamas and the fact that senior Hamas officials were invited to Tehran to celebrate the organization's victory in the elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council.

The Islamic Jihad tactic would be designed, inter alia, "to pose a challenge to Hamas," a senior source in the General Staff said to Haaretz. According to the source, the Jihad terror group seeks to confront Hamas with a dilemma - "whether to uphold the policy of calm toward Israel, as it has done until now."

Troops along the northern border were on unusually high alert status Monday, amid fears that the pro-Iranian Hezbollah organization might attempt to kidnap a soldier.

IDF officials believe that Iran and the terror groups identified with it are trying "to turn a tactical terror attack into a strategic one" - in other words, to initiate a series of relatively harsh attacks whose effect would be compounded due to the sensitive political timing of the action. The officials say that Israel must be very cautious when it comes to responding with force, and must avoid being caught up by provocations designed to spark off an inferno in the region.

An escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict serves Iranian interests in a number of ways: It redirects some of the international attention currently focused on the fight against Tehran's nuclear program, and it stokes terror and violence against Israel in a manner that gives the Iranians more sway over Palestinian elements.

While Islamic Jihad terror is an ongoing phenomenon, General Staff officials have identified a worrying trend among the independent Fatah groups - primarily in the West Bank - that have openly returned to terror since the movement's defeat in the elections. The fact that the Palestinian Authority is finding it hard to support these cells financially is pushing them into the arms of Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. This trend is likely to intensify following the formation of the Hamas government: At present, the PA has some 75,000 individuals on its payroll. Hamas is likely to want to get rid of some of them, both in order to save money and to be able to pay its people.

IDF troops on the northern border, meanwhile, are on high alert in fear of another Hezbollah attempt to abduct a soldier or civilian. An attempt in November in the village of Ghajar was foiled, and four Hezbollah activists were killed in a clash with Israeli soldiers. Last week, Hezbollah's secretary general, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, again hinted at such a possibility. He promised "to use all ways and means" to secure the release of Lebanese citizens imprisoned in Israel.

The Iranian interest, coupled with the developments in the internal Lebanese arena (the renewed U.S. pressure on Syria vis-a-vis the assassination of Rafik Hariri), could prompt Hezbollah to carry out a serious operation.

The IDF published its announcement on the heightened state of alert, apparently, as a deterrent against Hezbollah. Israel has adopted a similar tactic in the past on a number of occasions, but the effectiveness of such a move is doubtful: On November 20, Chief of Staff Dan Halutz issued a warning regarding plans by Hezbollah; the next day, however, the organization took action in Ghajar, despite knowing about the heightened state of alert.
Posted by: Dan Darling 2006-03-13