Israel apparently plans to take 3-4 weeks to have its troops search all the major towns in the Palestinian territories. Israeli intelligence has supplied lists of suspected members of terrorist organizations, which will probably total several thousand men. Also provided are maps with the locations of workshops for bombs, weapons, documents and other equipment. These are being searched and destroyed. Weapons and buildings belonging to Palestinian Authority armed forces are also being destroyed. About 700 have been arrested so far. These men (and a few women) are being interrogated, which will provide more information on people to look for and locations to be searched. Four Palestinian towns are currently occupied by Israeli troops and fighting continues in all four.
Yasser Arafat's compound is still surrounded in Ramallah, and inside it Arafat and several hundred Palestinians remain trapped. Dozens of these Palestinians are thought to be key members of terrorist organizations.
A major reason for the offensive is the Israeli realization that the Palestinian Authority had allowed the terrorist organizations to build up their organizations over the last few years and had no intention of trying to suppress the terrorists.
The Palestinian, and Arab, belief that Israel can be destroyed by terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians is part of a different view of reality in Arab countries. For example, opinion surveys continue to show that most Arabs continue to believe that Arabs had nothing to do with the September 11 attacks in America. This is why, after the Arab attack on the newly declared Israeli state in 1948 failed, Arab nations refused to take in any of the 700,000 Palestinians who fled the fighting. Had those Palestinians stayed, they would have outnumbered the 600,000 Israelis and the the history of Israel would have been quite different. It's interesting to note that nearly all of the 25 million refugees produced by the aftermath of World War II in the late 1940s were resettled. This included 600,000 thousand Jews who fled Arab nations after Israel was established.
The death toll for the 18 months of violence is now 1650, with about a quarter Israeli and the rest Palestinian. This actually encourages the Palestinians, for about half the Israeli dead have been killed in the last two months. This is seen as a sign that the Palestinians are winning. The Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon in the face of Hizbollah two years ago is seen as a model for the Palestinians.
The United States refuses to lean on Israel to make peace with the Palestinians. The reason is terrorism. Al Qaeda and the Palestinian terrorist organizations have worked together, but are separate organizations. Most worrisome is the Iran backed Hizbollah in Lebanon. This group has had closer ties with al Qaeda. In any event, as long as Israel is seen, by the United States, as fighting terrorism, then Israel is seen as an ally.
Iraq is trying to organize another Arab oil embargo, but the major oil producing nations do not seen this as practical. For one thing, there are a lot more non-Arab producers and the embargo might not have the desired effect. For one thing, the nations dependant on the oil might see such an embargo as an act of war. Even without that, the Arab oil producing nations have a precarious financial situations (lots of debts), that would be made a lot worse by an embargo.
Arafat, and many Arab nations, are calling on NATO to intervene militarily in Israel. This would never happen, as peacekeepers cannot enter, without permission, a nation possessing nuclear weapons. The Palestinian cause has become such a hot item in many parts of the world that the terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians are seen as justified. This was made stark recently when, during a meeting of Islamic leaders, the Malaysian leader suggested that attacks on civilians be defined as terrorism. The proposal was turned down by the other leaders.
The Israelis have declared Yasser Arafat an enemy, so it is uncertain who the Israelis would be willing to negotiate with. Arafat, like most dictators, did not designate an heir (lest the heir decide to speed up the succession process.) There are perhaps half a dozen men in the Palestinian Authority who could replace Arafat, all of them involved with police or security work. None have Arafat's stature and would be more dependent on a coalition. The Israelis know that negotiating with a committee is more difficult, but they have given up on Arafat. In the last few months, there have been many meetings between Israeli and Palestinian officials, and there may have been some talk of who would succeed Arafat and what could be negotiated.
The only thing that could break the deadlock and get negotiations going again would be new leadership on the Palestinian side and a dramatic offer from the Israeli side. Offering to withdraw the Israeli settlements from Palestinian territory would probably get negotiations going again as these settlements have been a major stumbling block for years. But for an Israeli politician to make such an offer would lose any support from conservative and religious Israelis. At the moment, opinion polls indicate that most Israelis would support removing the settlements.
A 122mm rocket was fired (apparently by Hizbollah) from Lebanon into northern Israel. There was no property damage or injuries. This is the first time this has happened since Israel withdrew from south Lebanon in May, 2000.