High-ranking Palestinian Authority officials admit that the terrorist attack last year on the American convoy at the Beit Lahiya intersection was meant to clip the wings of the man in Gaza who is closest to the United States
Last year's terrorist attack in the Gaza Strip, which claimed the lives of three American employees of a security firm who were guarding diplomats from the U.S. Embassy in Israel, sparked much anger within the higher echelons of the American administration. The diplomats were part of a 'peace delegation,' as a State Department spokesman put it, which went to Gaza to offer aid to Palestinians.
As the convoy passed through the Beit Lahiya intersection on October 15, 2003, at around 11:00 A.M., moving from the Erez crossing toward the city of Gaza along the main road, it was welcomed by an explosive charge weighing several dozen kilograms.
The diplomats were in the first and third bullet-proof cars in the convoy - which had diplomatic license plates - and escaped unharmed. The Palestinian policemen who were escorting the convoy were also hurt. Only the security guards who were in the second car - which was blown apart in the explosion - were killed.
The attack on the American convoy was out of the ordinary, because dozens of delegations operate in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on behalf of European and American aid organizations, and they almost never come to harm. The foreign organizations aid Palestinians, and like foreign media crews, they enjoy a quasi-immunity in the territories.
Palestinian spokesmen, and mainly Yasser Arafat, hastened to condemn the attack on the American convoy. 'It was not directed against the Americans - but against the Palestinian people,' said Arafat.
The Palestinian Authority and teams from the U.S. defense establishment immediately launched an investigation to determine who wanted to attack the American convoy, if the perpetrators' intent had really been to attack an Israeli military vehicle, and if the American security men were killed by mistake.
The first conclusion was that it was no mistake. The road where the attack took place is not used by the Israel Defense Forces. It is an exclusively Palestinian transportation route, along which hundreds of Arab vehicles pass each day. The people who set off the explosive charge knew exactly whom they were attacking. They evidently stood by the roadside, spotted the cars with the diplomatic plates and aimed for them.
Sources in the Palestinian defense establishment tried to make a case against this assumption and repeatedly raised the hypothesis that the attackers intended to hit an Israeli target. But the Americans rebuffed the attempt out of hand. They demanded a thorough investigation by the Palestinian Authority that would shed light on the circumstances of the incident and would also lead to a trial in which the guilty parties would be brought to justice.