The Day In Israel: Wednesday Feb 3rd, 2010

Following Monday’s discovery on beaches in Ashdod and Ashkelon of explosives-filled barrels, Israel is acting under the assumption that there are more such barrels in the sea off the coast of Israel and Gaza.

The police will continue to deploy large forces to look for additional bombs, at least through the end of this week. Yesterday, the police operations branch met with representatives of the Navy and intelligence agencies to evaluate the situation. The police will patrol the beaches, also using helicopters and on horseback.

The police called on the public to be alert for suspicious objects, especially on the beaches. In addition, the police asked the public not to visit beaches on the southern coast near where the explosive barrels were found.

The police said storms expected today would keep most people away from the beaches, but the coming storm could wash any other possible barrels ashore.

The police kept the public away from beaches yesterday at Zikim, Ashkelon, Nitzanim and Ashdod.

Meanwhile, the IDF believes the barrels were dropped in the water from fishing boats and terror from the sea will increase in the near future, which is something to bear in mind every time you read things like this excerpt from a report from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA):

Israeli forces continued during the week to enforce access restrictions on fishing areas beyond three nautical miles from the shore, which have been imposed since January 2009. In this context, Israeli naval forces opened warning fire towards Palestinian fishing boats in five separate incidents. In one of these incidents, west of Rafah, seven fishermen were arrested by Israeli forces, which also requisitioned the boats; Israeli forces released six of the fishermen and kept the three boats. The reduction in the sea areas accessible by Palestinian fishermen has been the main factor behind the sharp decline in the fishing catch from 3,117 tonnes in 2008 to 1,850 tonnes in 2009, according to the Fishing Syndicate in Gaza.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

10:28PM: Police today destroyed the third explosive device washed ashore in Israel this week, carrying out a controlled explosion at Palmachim beach, approximately 10 kilometers south of Tel Aviv.

Meanwhile, Navy Commander Major-General Eliezer “No, I’m not Chinese” Marom accused terror organizations of “making cynical use of Gaza’s fishermen for terror purposes”

In a speech at Ashdod port in honor of the inauguration of new vessels the admiral added, “Regular security ships guard the area, and allow Gaza’s fishermen to fish peacefully. I call on them not to cooperate with terror organizations and not to allow them to use these fishing boats for these purposes.”

Marom said the operations of terror organizations, such as setting afloat barrels filled with explosive devices to wash up on Israel’s shores, would harm the fishermen’s livelihood

2:50PM: In his speech to the Knesset, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has, amongst other things, ripped the Goldstone Report and expressed his country’s support for Israel.

The Italian prime minister spoke in Italian from the Knesset podium. “We were against the Goldstone Report, which tried to incriminate Israel for its justified response to Hamas rockets,” he said before Knesset members to loud applause. “We are proud that Italy knew how to act when Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem were bombed. Italy is proud of its many gestures of support, such as its refusal to attend the second Durban conference which tried to tar Israel with insufferable accusations of racism and violence.”

“We are fighting and will continue to fight together with you against every instance of anti-Semitism in Europe and around the world,” Berlusconi emphasized. “We will also stand with you in Israel’s struggle for peace and security, and work to establish democracy in nations throughout the world and defend freedom as inalienable requirements for every human being.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was lavish in his praise of the guest. “Silvio, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, you are a brave leader who stands by Israel, and Israel’s citizens should understand the extent of your support. Under your leadership, Italy has become the spearhead of the struggle against anti-Semitism. You not only stand before our enemies and slanderers, you also work to bring Israel and Europe closer, promoting Israel’s inclusion in the Union. Under your leadership the friendship between our nations and states has developed and Italy has become one of Israel’s closest friends. For all these reasons, Israel knows it has a good friend in Europe in the figure of Berlusconi.”

He also receives the Quote of the Day award for this:

“We, the free and liberal people across the world, thank you (Israel) for your very existence.”

6:20AM: In the wake of the mysterious death of arch terrorist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, Hamas believes Israel may have infiltrated the highest echelons of Hamas or the Syrian security services.

“The assassination of someone as senior as Mabhouh has rung an alarm bell in Hamas,” the official told The Jerusalem Post. “Only a few people in the Hamas leadership knew about Mabhouh’s secret activities and movements.”

The official said that many Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip and Syria were convinced that the Mossad has infiltrated the movement’s top ranks. “Obviously, the assassination of Mabhouh is a huge security blunder for Hamas, because it shows that the Israeli agents are sitting among our leaders in Damascus.”

The Hamas official said Hamas was also looking into the possibility that Israel has infiltrated the Syrian security services, which are responsible for the safety of the leaders of all the radical Palestinian groups based in Damascus, including Hamas.

“We don’t rule out the possibility that the Israelis or some other security agency that works with them have recruited a senior Syrian intelligence officer who feeds them with details about the movements and whereabouts of representatives of Hamas and other groups, particularly Hizbullah,” he said.


David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media