MARK LANGFAN, MORTARS
By Bernard J. Shapiro
Back in September of 1992 a young New York attorney, Mark Langfan, published a landmark article in JINSA's magazine, Security Affairs. It was entitled, DEMILITARIZATION RISKS, and boldly pointed out the dangers of allowing the creation of a Palestinian State or Authority in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. As you will learn form this article it has become frighteningly prophetic. In the light of very recent news from Israel, please read the following excerpts from Langfan's original article:
A "demilitarized autonomous zone" has been proposed as a solution for a gradual lessening of Israeli administration of the territories of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. At some point in the ongoing Middle East peace talks, the exact legal meaning of the term "demilitarized autonomous zone" will have to be agreed upon by Israel, the surrounding Arab states, the Palestinians and, if necessary, outside peace keeping guarantors. (Ed. note: Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, has announced that negotiations on Palestinian autonomy in the territories will proceed rapidly.) One problem facing Israeli negotiations will be a structure to prevent determined individuals from smuggling impermissible weapons into the "demilitarized zone."
In this regard, the Israeli negotiating team must grapple with the reality that, no matter what settlement is reached, there will continue to exist well-funded, organized and violent Palestinian nationalistic and Islamic extremist elements which will attempt to smuggle weapons into the "demilitarized zone" which they will use to kill Israelis.
In evaluating how strong a security net is required to prevent smuggling, the Israeli negotiating team must evaluate the relative dangers of small and easily transported weapons. A standard terrorist weapon, for purposes of such a discussion, is the Soviet-designed Katyusha artillery rocket. For over 20 years, the Katyusha has been used extensively by terrorists in Lebanon to bombard northern Israel.
While Katyusha rockets are usually fired in barrages of dozens at a time, they can also be fired singly. If launched into the very densely populated Tel Aviv-Netanya corridor, they would surely kill and spread unimaginable terror . Israel's coastal corridor contains 70 percent of Israel's population and 80 percent of her industrial base. The technological simplicity and ease of transportability of many weapon systems with sufficient range to cause havoc and death in Israel make smuggling of weapons into the West Bank a grave concern for Israeli negotiators.
Internal security measures are another issue to be addressed. The greatest protection Israel now has against terrorist attacks and weapons smuggling is the maintenance of an intense surveillance regime in the territories. If internal jurisdiction was transferred to an independent Palestinian entity, Israel would lose this crucial ability. Unlike the barren deserts and hills of the Egyptian and Jordanian border regions, the West Bank has hundreds of cities, towns and villages. Therefore, terrorists operating from the West Bank could easily find safe refuge within the surrounding population.
In addition, what right of action will Israel have if a Katyusha or other weapon is fired into Israel from the "demilitarized autonomous zone?" If such reprisal is restrained in expectation of justice being served by the authorities of the "autonomous zone," what is the Israeli recourse when nothing happens? There will exist plausible deniability in the failure of the "autonomous zone" authorities to capture terrorist. Unlike in state-to-state relations, there is the likelihood that no one person or group of persons will have the authority or means to halt attacks on Israelis.
PA SMUGGLES WEAPONS INCLUDING KATYUSHAS
Dr. Aaron Lerner repots on May 7, 2001 that a Palestinian weapons boat seized yesterday represent major a change in the threat against Israel. This evening the Commander of the Israeli Navy Yedidya Yaari told a press conference televised live from Haifa Port that a weapons boat had been seized by the Israeli Navy. The operation was handled by professional Lebanese smugglers who took the boat ("Santorini") from North Lebanon and were supposed to leave the weapons in barrels off the Gaza Coast for pick upon behalf of the Palestinian Authority. The weapons were believed to have been sent by Ahmed Jibril.
The weapons captured were displayed at the press conference as was the boat.The boat had been monitored over the weekend. Yaari noted that on board the ship a wide variety of weapons were discovered, among them surface to air missiles, RPG launchers, mortars, mines, weapons, and many kinds of ammunition.
List of Weapons:
20 RPG-7 launchers
9 Sights for RPG-7
100 PG-7 rockets
50 OG-7 rockets
150 Propellant for RPG-7
120 Anti-tank grenades RKG
4 SA-7 Strella anti-aircraft missiles
2 60mm mortar
98 60mm mortar bombs
50 107mm Katyusha rockets including fuses
62 TMA-5 mines
8 TMA-3 mines
24 Various hand grenades
30 Hungarian Kalashnikov assault rifles with 13,000 rounds of 7.62mm rounds for ammunition
116 Magazines for Kalashnikovs
Dr.Aaron Lerner reports further that the SA7 Strella anti-aircraft missiles have a range allowing them to shoot down Israel aircraft over Israeli airspace from inside the Palestinian Autonomy. Channel Two Television military correspondent Roni Daniel noted that the anti-tank weapons found on the boat would have been able to pierce the armo being used by Israel in the conflict with the Palestinians. He also pointed out that the Katyusha range would bring much of the Sharon Plain (greater Tel Aviv area) within striking distance from within the Palestinian Autonomy.
Ha'aretz (IMRA) reports that Minister of Defense Ben Eliezer said today that "very soon you will be stunned to hear things that will make it clear just how large the extent o smuggling has become. it is possible that we will soon see the Palestinians move from the stage of mortar shelling to new and more dangerous stages.
Danny Rubinstein (Ha'aretz 8 May 2001) Says that the weapons were meant for many fighters. (IMRA) Israel Radio reported this morning that the spokesman for the PHLP-GC in Gaza said the weapons were meant for general distribution to security forces in Gaza and not the PHLP-GC) Based on information gathered during questioning, the source of the weapons and other military materials found on a ship headed for Gaza is the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) headed by Ahmed Jibril.
This relatively small organization, whose activities are nearly all abroad, including in Syria and Lebanon, has nearly no presence in the West Bank and Gaza. It is therefore difficult to suggest that such a large quantity of weapons was meant only for the members of Jibril's organization in Gaza. The Katyusha rockets and the Strella SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles, the explosives and other materials, were meant to reach bigger groups in Gaza, with the operational capability to distribute them to trained persons who are capable of using them.
In other words, if these weapons were not directly meant for the Palestinian Authority, they would surely have reached organizations linked with the PA. These comprise the various "resistance committees," and other gangs of Fatah members (the Tanzim), the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, who operate in cahoots with the Palestinian security services and who initiate the majority of the shooting incidents.
Ahmed Jibril, 70, is a Palestinian born near Abasiya (Yehud). A former Syrian officer, he once headed one of the leftist organizations against Arafat and fought on the side of renegades from Fatah and Syrian troops against the PLO during the latter part of the war in Lebanon in 1982. During the last decade, Jibril has forged links with Iran and Islamic radicals.
During the previous Intifada, in early 1988, Jibril lent his assistance by setting up a radio station, Al Quds, in Syrian territory on the Golan Heights, which broadcast to the territories. In recent years, several operations were initiated by Jibril's operatives in southern Lebanon, but all failed.
Ha'aretz (May 8, 2001) correspondents Amnon Barzilai and David Ratner and Aluf Benn quote Navy Commander-in-Chief Yedidia Ya'ari that there was no guarantee that similar shipments had not successfully reached the PA in the past. There would undoubtedly be similar smuggling attempts in the future, he said. Israel Radio senior diplomatic correspondent Yoni Ben Menachem reported today that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told a foreign press briefing today that the arms smugglers caught over the weekend smuggling anti-aircraft missiles, Katyushas and other weapons to Gaza successfully delivered THREE shipments to Gaza in the past.
"The arms that were captured change the balance of forces between us and the Palestinians, particularly the 107mm Katyushas, which have a range of 8.5 kilometers," Ya'ari told reporters during a press conference at the naval base in Haifa. "Even more worrying are the Strella personal anti-aircraft missiles, which are capable of hitting aircraft inside Israeli territory."
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon informed the U.S. administration of the captured ship yesterday, terming it "an extremely grave violation of all the agreements that [PA Chairman Yasser] Arafat signed with Israel." This was "not a minor violation, but an attempt [by the Palestinians] to equip themselves with serious weaponry that could injure Israeli citizens," he said. The message was relayed to U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice at a meeting with Finance Minister Silvan Shalom, who is now in Washington; Shalom asked Rice to pass it on to President George W. Bush.
Israel Radio also reported that a senior defense source said he believes the Palestinians have mortars and mortar launchers in the West Bank. The correspondent relaying the story noted that the much ridiculed warnings by Sharon and others that Oslo would ultimately lead to the cities of Israel being threatened by shelling are now becoming reality.
Arutz Sheva reports in its broadcast on May 8 that Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said "The extent of these weapons makes a mockery of all our security-coordination meetings with the Palestinians," said. "We talk about peace and returning to the negotiating table, while they are preparing for war." He was referring to the discovery on Sunday of a vessel laden with heavy weapons headed for the Gaza coast from Lebanon. The shipment contained four anti-aircraft Strella missiles, 120 anti-tank missile launchers, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortar shells. In addition, there were Kalachnikov submachine guns with 13,000 7.62 mm bullets, Katyusha rockets with a range of 8.5 kilometers - as opposed to the 1.5-kilometer range of the mortars used by the PA until now - as well as dozens of RPG launchers, mortar bombs, mines, and more. The shipment was sent by terrorist leader Ahmed Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Israeli officials invited international diplomats to see the wide array of weapons saved from reaching their destination in the PA. The Oslo and Wye Agreements forbid the PA from holding weapons such as Katyushas, rockets, and mortar launchers, and it is bound to hand them over to U.S. officials for destruction.
Voice of Israel reporter Yoni Ben-Menachem said today, "A government minister reminded me that in 1994, after the 'Gaza and Jericho first' agreement, then-Likud MK Ariel Sharon told the Knesset that it will only be a matter of time before the PA fires Katyushas from Gaza onto Ashkelon; later, then-Labor party Minister Chaim Ramon mocked Sharon and said, 'Where are the Katyushas that you promised us?' Now it looks like we will soon see them..."
Israeli defense leaders said today that the Palestinians already have weapons of the type that were seized Sunday. Smuggling of weapons to the PA has been taking place for years, chiefly via underground tunnels from Egypt to Rafiach and in Arafat's plane. Other Palestinian VIPs, whose cars went unchecked through Israeli checkpoints, also smuggled in various weapons. A security source told Arutz-7 today, "Almost every time a VIP car returned from Jordan, we saw that it was heavily weighted down - but we were not allowed to check it."
THE BOTTOM LINE
As Langfan predicted the Palestinian Authority would smuggle weapons, including Katyushas in to the areas under its control to attack Israel. The rapid rise in the use of mortars by the PA terrorists points to a testing of Israeli resolve. The relative difficulty of the IDF to stop the mortar attacks has been noted by the enemy. As has the ability to terrorize and kill with a weapon fired from a distance. The Left who mocked Langfan's warnings and those of the Nationalists Camp will live to see their delusions crumble as the bloodbath accelerates.
Mark Langfan is a New York-based attorney who has written on Middle Eastern affairs and security issues confronting Israel. He has created a three-dimensional topographical model of Israel to explain the implications of strategic height and depth for Israel's security. This model has been endorsed by the Spokesman's Office of the Israel Defense Forces and is used by JINSA. Langfan is also the Freeman Center Military Analyst.
Bernard J. Shapiro is Executive Director of the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies and editor of its Internet magazine, THE MACCABEAN ONLINE.