Jerusalem (JTA) — A CNN producer who was kidnapped in the Gaza Strip was freed a day after he was seized in Gaza City by four armed men who approached the car in which he was traveling. Palestinian Authority officials, perhaps concerned that the kidnapping could be seen as an indication of their inability to keep Gaza secure if Israel carries through on its planned withdrawal next year, are believed to have been involved in negotiating the release of Riad Ali, an Israeli Druse.
Jewish residents of the Gaza Strip seem to be splitting into factions in the face of the near-certain evacuation of settlements there, as evidenced by events this week in New York and Jerusalem.
While the mayor of the Gush Katif settlement bloc, joined by a prominent Likud member of Knesset, was making his case for political and financial support here and vowing to fight, a group of settler leaders was meeting with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to discuss relocating their communities and negotiate compensation for the move.
The bloody end to a massive rally in Gaza Monday marking the third anniversary of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat’s death is seen as underscoring the disunity of the Palestinian people whose aspirations for their own state are proving more and more elusive.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks got under way in Jerusalem for the first time in seven years Wednesday even as Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip tried to derail it by firing more than 20 rockets into Israel.
Five people were lightly injured — including a girl in Sderot who was hit by shrapnel — and it prompted the city’s mayor to say he was resigning, unable to cope with the "desperate" situation there.
Although the Israeli public initially sympathized with the plight of Gaza and West Bank evacuees, a backlash has begun to occur against some of the settlers for complaining that the government was ill prepared to resettle them properly.
“We heard terrible things, like we had gotten compensation so why were we complaining, that we hit the soldiers, that we took the Arabs’ houses and we were asking for mercy we didn’t deserve,” Einat Yefet, a settler youth protest leader told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
Egypt has ordered back into Gaza as many as 500 Hamas gunmen and an estimated 10,000 other Palestinians who in recent days have raced into Egypt through the blown-up border wall, but many analysts believe it will be impossible to put the genie back into the bottle.
“This is a whole new ballgame,” said Gerald Steinberg, a professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University. “It has implications for Israeli-Egyptian relations and the way the whole Gaza issue is treated. It also makes the question of a Palestinian state look even more remote.”
As the Labor Party moved closer this week to joining Likud in a new coalition government to implement the Gaza disengagement plan, Israeli settlers stepped up their opposition by donning orange Stars of David and calling for civil disobedience against the withdrawal.
The orange Stars of David, reminiscent of the yellow stars the Jews of Europe were forced to wear by the Nazis, were to be distributed this weekend, but some settlers in Gaza began wearing them Tuesday and a picture of one of them with the star on her lapel ran on the front page of an Israeli newspaper.
In a development that marks a new escalation in the 8-month-old intifada, Palestinians were caught smuggling sophisticated weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles, into Gaza this week, prompting Israeli authorities to take precautionary steps at Ben-Gurion Airport.
All airplanes using Ben-Gurion are being instructed to remain above 7,000 feet until only seven miles from the airport because of the threat from anti-aircraft missiles.
Israel’s decision Wednesday to continue targeted attacks in the Gaza Strip rather than to recapture the area from Hamas leaves open the possibility of a cease-fire that would at least temporarily end repeated Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli communities.
Israel was to begin cutting back electricity to the Gaza Strip late this week in addition to reducing fuel and food shipments in an effort to pressure the Hamas government there to end rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. But there was a growing belief that a full-scale Israeli invasion of Gaza might be the only effective way to end the attacks.
“It seems to me to be only a matter of time,” said Yitzhak Reiter of the Harry S Truman Center for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.