Islamic Jihad vowed to continue attacks against Israel according to a statement issued by this Palestinian resistance group Tuesday. The military wing of the group said it would strike at "Israeli targets until the expulsion of the Israelis."
Hamas last week released a similar statement justifying suicide bombings in spite of calls by several Palestinian Authority officials to cease attacks against Israeli civilians.
Also on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon described the latest army offensive in the West Bank as a success but said the mission to root out “Palestinian militants” was not over.
In a speech to the Israeli parliament, he reserved the right to continue raids in the West Bank to detain suspected palestinians and halt further attacks against Israelis.
"We have not finished the job. Our fight against terror continues," Sharon said. "There is not and will not be any hiding place for the terrorists, their helpers and accomplices."
Sharon said the military operation was "an important and vital stage" in the struggle against “Palestinian militants.”
Sharon said that an end to "terror" and reform of the Palestinian Authority were pre-conditions for the renewal of peace talks, but he made no mention of a Palestinian state.
Sharon told lawmakers that, "Israel will enter negotiations immediately after the fulfillment of two conditions - the total cessation of terror, incitement and violence, and reforms in the Palestinian Authority."
Without mentioning the statehood issue, Sharon said: "There can be no peace with a corrupt terror regime which is rotten and dictatorial... There has to be a different (Palestinian) Authority."
"When we see how the Palestinians construct their society and their self-government, when we see that they truly seek peace... we can move ahead to discussions of the character of the permanent deals between us," he added.
"The Palestinian Authority must be reformed in every respect: security, politically, socially, financially and legally - everything must be overhauled," said Sharon.
Sharon added that Israel was making every effort to ensure that Hizbullah "provocation" on the northern border failed.
"The same principal of avoiding escalation guides our actions on the Lebanese border," he said. "Hizbullah is now trying to escalate the situation and we are witness to increased Iranian and Syrian involved."
On the ground, Israeli troops carried out a series of sweeps of West Bank towns and villages on Tuesday, arresting 14 Palestinians including several who are members of the Palestinian Authority's security forces.
The operation took place after Israeli soldiers killed Khaled Abu Heran, the chief of the PA intelligence services in the town of Halhul, and one of his deputies, Ahmed Abdelaziz Abu Madieh. Both were considered as activists in the Palestinian resistence movement and were wanted by the Israelis.
Palestinian sources said they were killed while traveling in an automobile and not, as the Israelis claimed, when they were discovered hiding in a house in Halhul.
One of the 14 picked up in the operation in Halhul was Jamal Abu Atsab, a member of Force 17, the personal bodyguard unit of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Also arrested was Mahmud Sueki, who belongs to the PA's Preventative Security Service. He was detained in the town of Dura.
Nine Palestinians were picked up for questioning in the village of Deir el-Azun and three others were arrested in the town of Anin, suspected of carrying out attacks on Israeli targets.
Israeli special forces arrested a wanted Hamas operative in Hebron, Palestinian sources said. Ali Hassan Qawasma was nabbed by Israeli troops, Israel Radio added.
Israeli military sources said the arrests were the result of the questioning of the hundreds of Palestinins detained during the Israeli army's recent incursions into West Bank cities and refugee camps. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)