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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Palestinians up quality of improvised explosives

Under Hizbullah guidance, Palestinian terror groups in the West Bank have recently obtained high-grade explosives that have significantly improved the effectiveness of roadside improvised explosive devices (IED) used against IDF patrols, senior defense officials told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

According to the officials, the Palestinians, adopting Hizbullah tactics, have also improved the way they camouflage and hide the explosive devices on the sides of roads patrolled by IDF jeeps. While some of the explosives used in the bombs were smuggled into the West Bank - from the Sinai Desert - the Palestinians also used homemade explosives that were less effective but still lethal.

"With predictions of another wave of violence in the West Bank around the corner, the Palestinian IEDs are a point of concern," said one senior official.

Since the beginning of the year, IDF troops in the West Bank have discovered two suicide belts, as well as three large IEDs, including one weighing 60 kilograms and another weighing 32 kg, both near Jenin. In 2006, troops discovered 109 IEDs in the West Bank in addition to 11 suicide belts.

At Sunday's cabinet meeting, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin reported growing Hizbullah efforts to establish infrastructure and gain a foothold in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

IEDs have been a source of concern for the US military in Iraq and for NATO forces operating in Afghanistan. At a recent NATO conference in Tel Aviv, the IDF shared intelligence information on the IEDs it was facing and the measures troops took to avoid attacks.

According to a high-ranking IDF officer, Palestinians were continuing efforts to manufacture and fire Kassam rockets from the West Bank. During the summer, the IDF thwarted several such attempts in Tulkarm, where they discovered a Fatah infrastructure behind the development of a small, lightweight Kassam rocket.

"They are constantly trying to get the development off the ground," the officer said. "The only reason they fail is that the IDF retains a presence in the territory."

In the face of the possibility that another wave of violence will break out by the summer, the officer said the Central Command was preparing and was sending battalions for additional training. "The atmosphere is tense, and it is clear that something needs to happen," the officer said. "Either another round of violence or some diplomatic breakthrough. We need to be ready." •

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