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Cablegate: Wb/G Sitrep: Palestinian Tunnelers Rescued Alive;

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 TEL AVIV 006453

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

NEA FOR BURNS/SATTERFIELD/DIBBLE;
NEA/SA/EX FOR RICHIE; DEPT FOR DS/IP/ITA; DEPT FOR
DS/IP/NEA;
DRL FOR A/S CRANER; NSC FOR ABRAMS/DANIN;
USAID FOR DCHA, DCHA/FPP, PRM FOR DEWEY/GREENE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KWBG PHUM PREL PTER ASEC CASC GZ IS
SUBJECT: WB/G SITREP: PALESTINIAN TUNNELERS RESCUED ALIVE;
PALESTINIAN PRISONER RELEASE APPROVED: DECEMBER 20, 2004
(1400 HOURS LOCAL)


This is a joint ConGen Jerusalem/Embassy Tel Aviv cable.

1. (SBU) Summary: A total of 11 Palestinians were killed and
another 49 were wounded in clashes that erupted during an IDF
incursion into the Khan Yunis December 17-18 intended to stop
mortar and rocket fire on Israeli and Israeli settler towns.
Some 127 families (600 people) fled their homes during the
IDF operation and were accommodated in two UNRWA schools in
the area. When the IDF withdrew at 2200 hours December 18, a
total of 44 housing units (housing 57 families or 308 people)
had been destroyed, and another three (accommodating 25
people) had been heavily damaged. The families housed in the
UNRWA school returned to their homes on December 19, after
the IDF withdrawal. Five Palestinians reportedly killed
December 17 in the collapse of a weapons smuggling tunnel
along the Egyptian-Rafah border were rescued alive after
having been trapped for more than 12 hours. Palestinian
militants fired a total of 13 Qassam rockets at Israeli and
Israeli settler towns and villages December 17-19. Two,
possibly three, Israelis were lightly wounded by the rockets.
In the West Bank, a total of six Palestinians were injured,
one of them seriously, during three separate clashes between
Palestinians and IDF soldiers December 19 in Beituniya, near
Ramallah, Tulkarem, and Halhul, near Hebron. The GOI
December 19 approved the release of 170 Palestinian prisoners
in accordance with an agreement made between Egypt and Israel
for the release of Azzam Azzam. End Summary.

---------
West Bank
---------

2. (SBU) ATTACKS:

-- Deaths: Nil.

-- Injuries: Three Palestinians were injured during clashes
with the IDF December 19 in Beituniya near Ramallah.

-- Injuries: Two Palestinians were wounded December 19 in
clashes with the IDF in Tulkarem.

-- Injury: Two Palestinians December 19 stabbed and
moderately wounded an Israeli in the Abu Tur neighborhood of
Jerusalem. The circumstances of the incident are unclear.

-- Injury: A Palestinian was seriously wounded during clashes
with the IDF December 19 in the village of Halhul north of
Hebron.

3. (SBU) ARRESTS/SECURITY:

-- Curfew/Arrests: The IDF December 18 imposed a curfew on
Qalqiliya and conducted searches in the city. The IDF
arrested at least nine Palestinians during the operation.

-- Arrests: The IDF December 18 arrested 11 Palestinians in
Hebron, Bethlehem, and Tulkarem Palestinians fired shots at
IDF soldiers operating in Tulkarem There were no injuries
reported from this incident.

-- Shooting: Palestinian gunmen December 18 fired on IDF
soldiers operating in the Askar refugee camp near Nablus.
There were no injuries reported in this incident.

-- Arrests: The IDF arrested 14 Palestinians during
operations overnight December 19-20 in several localities in
the West Bank, including seven arrests in the Balata refugee
camp in Nablus.

-- The Israeli Border police December 20 arrested a
Palestinian in possession of a knife at the Kalandia
checkpoint north of Jerusalem who apparently intended to
attack the Israeli border guards.

4. (SBU) DEMOLITIONS:

-- The IDF entered December 20 the village of Arraba near
Jenin and blew up the homes of PIJ and al-Aqsa Martyrs,
Brigades activists who are currently in Israeli custody.

5. (SBU) PALESTINIAN PRISONERS:

-- An Israeli ministerial committee headed by Prime Minister
Sharon approved December 19 the release of 170 Palestinian
prisoners in accordance with an agreement made between Egypt
and Israel for the release of Azzam Azzam. According to
press reports, 120 Fatah activists will be released along
with 50 Palestinians arrested inside Israel without legal
entry permits. Palestinian Authority (PA) officials
criticized the prisoner release as insufficient, adding that
the decision to release prisoners was not coordinated with
the PA and that priority should be given to those prisoners
serving lengthy sentences.

6. (SBU) POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS:

-- Hamas marked the 17th anniversary of the founding of the
movement with a march December 18 through the West Bank city
of Nablus. A similar march took place in Tulkarem

-- The Palestinian Authority (PA) will hold a memorial
service December 21 for Yasir Arafat in Ramallah. Senior
Arab officials including Egyptian Intelligence Director Omar
Sulayman and the Jordanian Minister of Interior are expected
to attend the observance marking the end of the 40-day
mourning period since the death of Arafat.

-- Following a brief stopover in Amman for meetings with
Jordanian officials, Prime Minister Abu Ala,a and PLO chief
Abu Mazen are expected December 20 to arrive in Ramallah.

----
Gaza
----

7. (SBU) ATTACKS:

-- Deaths/Injuries: UNRWA reported that a total of 11
Palestinians were killed and another 49 were wounded in
clashes that broke out during the December 17-18 IDF
incursion into the Khan Yunis refugee camp (see
"Incursions/Demolitions").

-- Death: UNRWA reported that one Palestinian, reportedly
affiliated of the PRC, died December 17 of wounds he
sustained during the September 30 IDF incursion into the
Jabaliya refugee camp.

-- Injuries: Israeli media reported that five Palestinians
reportedly killed December 17 in the collapse of a weapons
smuggling tunnel along the Egyptian-Rafah border, were
rescued alive after having been trapped for more than 12
hours. Media reports December 18 put the number of rescued
men at six, rather than the five initially reported December
17.

-- Injuries: The IDF reported that IDF soldiers shot and
wounded two Palestinians December 19 near Rafah.

-- Injury: The IDF reported that IDF soldiers shot and
wounded one Palestinian December 19 when they opened fire on
three "Palestinian suspects" north of Khan Yunis.

-- Injuries: Israeli media reported that three Israelis were
lightly injured in a December 19 Qassam rocket attack on the
Israeli town of Sderot. The IDF reported two Israelis
wounded in the same attack (see "Rockets/Mortars").

-- Injuries: UNRWA reported that two Palestinians, including
a four-year-old girl, were injured December 18 in Rafah in
exchanges of fire between IDF soldiers and Palestinian
militants. A third Palestinian was injured later the same
day.

-- Mortars/Rockets: The IDF reported that Palestinian
militants fired a total of 13 Qassam rockets at Israeli and
Israeli settler towns and villages December 17-19. Israeli
media reported that three Israelis were lightly injured; the
IDF reported that two Israelis were injured in the same
attack (see "Injuries").

-- Mortars/Rockets: The IDF reported that Palestinian
militants fired a total of ten mortar shells and two
anti-tank rockets at IDF targets in the Gaza Strip December
18-19.

-- Shootings: The IDF reported that Palestinian militants
launched a total of nine shooting attacks against IDF and
Israeli settler targets in the Gaza Strip December 17-20.

-- Explosions: UNRWA and Israeli media reported that IAF
helicopter gunships fired two rockets at what was reportedly
a Hamas weapons workshop inside a house in Gaza City December
17. The house was heavily damaged, but no injuries were
reported.

-- Explosions: UNRWA reported that IAF aircraft fired two
missiles at an open area northeast of Shaykh Zayed City (a
neighborhood of Gaza City) December 19. Israeli media
reported that the rockets were targeting a Qassam rocket
launcher. UNRWA reported that a group of boys had been
playing in the area.

8. (SBU) INCURSIONS/DEMOLITIONS:

-- UNRWA reported that some 30 IDF tanks, APCs and bulldozers
entered the southern area of Khan Yunis refugee camp December
17 in response to continued mortar and rocket fire from the
Khan Yunis area into the Gush Katif settlement bloc and into
Israel. The ground forces, supported by helicopter gunships
and UAVs, leveled buildings and were met with fierce
resistance from Palestinian militants who gathered to repel
the incursion using small arms, IEDs and anti-tank rockets.
At the end of the first day, a total of nine Palestinians had
been killed and another 30 were injured, according to UNRWA.
Some 127 families (600 people) fled their homes during the
IDF operation and were accommodated in two UNRWA schools in
the area. The incursion continued for a second day December
18 with IAF aircraft targeting rocket and mortar launching
sites, and bulldozers destroying houses and razing fields.
When the IDF withdrew at 2200 hours December 18, a total of
11 Palestinians had been killed and 49 were wounded in the
two-day incursion. A total of 44 housing units (housing 57
families or 308 people) had been destroyed, and another three
(accommodating 25 people) had been heavily damaged. The
families housed in the UNRWA school returned to their homes
on December 19, after the IDF withdrawal from the area.

9. (SBU) BORDER CROSSINGS:

-- Route Four (Salahadeen Road), the main north-south traffic
artery, was open December 18-20, with a major detour at
Netzarim Junction.

-- Erez Crossing was open for internationals and for a
limited number of Palestinians December 17-19. No laborers
were authorized entry, but a total of 38 merchants crossed
into Israel December 17, none crossed on December 18, and 59
crossed into Israel on December 19.

-- The Erez Industrial Zone remained closed December 18-20.

-- Sufa Crossing was closed for Palestinian laborers December
18-20, but was open for the import of aggregates used in
construction December 19. On December 20, UNRWA reported
that Sufa Crossing was closed as the IDF searched for tunnels
in the area.

-- Karni Terminal was open December 18-20.

-- Rafah Terminal was closed for arrivals and departures
December 18-20.

-- Tel al-Sultan checkpoint was closed December 18-20.
Toufah checkpoint was open for residents of al-Mowassi.

10. (SBU) POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS:

-- Israeli media reported December 17 that 11 new families
had recently moved to the northern Gaza Strip settlement of
Nissanit, raising the number of families living there to 304.


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KURTZER

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