Byline: Rachel Ehrenfeld, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Shortly after the citizens of the Israeli town of Sderot suffered another rocket attack from Hamas-controlled Gaza, Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered all border crossings between Israel and Gaza closed. At the same time, also on Mr. Barak's orders, a Brink's armored car carrying NIS 72 million in cash ($20 million), delivered its load at the Erez crossing to a similarly secure vehicle of a Palestinian bank in Gaza. The minister's spokesperson contended on Aug. 14 that the money- transfer issue is "separate from the rocket attack and closing of the crossings.'' The spokesperson added that the cash - Palestinian tax money withheld by Israel - was sent to replenish the reserves in Gaza's banks following Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' request to pay Fatah-loyal Palestinian Authority (PA) employees in Gaza, before Sept. 1, the beginning of Ramadan. This was the second cash transfer in two weeks.
Israel Security Agency chief Yuval Diskin's warning that Hamas is using the so-called cease-fire to improve and increase its armaments was ignored. Not surprisingly, on Aug. 15, Hamas' Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) unveiled their latest rocket, the Nasser-4. This longer-range rocket can reach Israel's main cargo port, Ashdod, and even Beersheba, Israel's largest southern city. With these improved rockets, Hamas now threatens the lives of 500,000 Israelis.
Israel's response was yet another meek protest that Hamas violates its agreements. The cease-fire - was very specific that the Hamas movement and the other terrorist groups can't use it as a period to import more weapons, more explosives, more rockets into the Gaza Strip, said Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Israel reserves the right to act, if need be, to protect ourselves, he added.
Mr. Olmert's government is under growing American pressure to fulfill all of the requests made by Mr. Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. The fiction is that helping the leaders of the moderate Fatah would help that organization prevail over Hamas, which took control over the Gaza Strip after the Israeli withdrawal three years ago. These last three years served Hamas well. It consolidated its political power and increased its military capabilities, with more than 222 tons of ammunition, 10 million bullets and hundreds of anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs), all smuggled into the Gaza Strip from the Egyptian-controlled Sinai Peninsula.
But the Defense Ministry insisted that the cash was …