Sunday, December 27, 2009

Despite U.S. rap, Netanyahu says IDF will keep 'aggressively' defending Israelis

(Haaretz).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Sunday that the Israel Defense Forces would respond to every assault on Israelis, one day after undercover commandos killed three Fatah militants behind a terror attack last week, an operation which prompted a request for clarification from the White House.

"We'll continue to defend aggressively and respond to every attack against Israeli citizens and every rocket strike," the prime minister said.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades operatives killed in Nablus on Saturday were suspected of shooting 45-year-old Rabbi Meir Hai to death in an attack on his car in the northern West Bank on Thursday.

Police said Sunday, meanwhile, that one of the weapons confiscated by IDF troops during the operation had been used to shoot Rabbi Hai, a resident of a West Bank settlement. Police took the weapons to a criminal identification lab for a ballistics check.

The dead militants are Raad Sarkaji, 38, a Tanzim activist formerly of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades in the Nablus area, who was arrested in 2002 and released at the beginning of this year; Ghassan Abu Shreikh, 40, who was also a former prisoner in Israel, and Adnan Subuh, 33. Security officials said Subuh had four weapons and a hoard of ammunition when he was killed.

Senior Obama administration officials requested on Saturday that National Security Adviser Uzi Arad explain the IDF raid in Nablus.

Arad shared intelligence with the officials that Israel had received about the militants, who belonged to the military wing of the Western-backed Fatah movement, and the details of the operation on Saturday that led to their deaths.

The national security advisor, a key aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, stressed that this was a case of self-defense, since the three were behind a terror attack on Thursday.

Israeli political sources said the Obama administration did not formally protest or complain about the incident, but only sought clarifications, passing on the Palestinians' complaint.