Sharon Okays Gaza Buffer Zone

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon approved Saturday, December 24, the creation of a security zone in northern Gaza Strip, less than two month after Israel withdrew its occupation troops from the impoverished strip.

Sharon Okays Gaza Buffer Zone

Israel will enforce the new off-limits zone in the Strip with artillery, helicopter and gunboat fire, the Haaretz daily reported quoting Israeli defense officials.

Tel Aviv threatened on Friday, December 23, to use air strikes and shelling to enforce a buffer zone inside the Strip.

"We will consider employing that plan and using all our resources from the air, the sea and the ground to create a sort of buffer which will be controlled by fire, not by the presence of troops," Sharon's spokesman Raanan Gissin said.

The Israeli Defense Ministry said the army had already been ordered to restrict movement within the belt along the border and security sources said that meant intensified air strikes.

The no-go zone will be 1.5 miles deep and run along the northern and eastern edges of Gaza, which is about 25 miles long and six miles wide.

The Israeli officials admitted that the areas affected include Palestinian farmland.

If enforced, the aerial barrage would mark Israel's toughest military action in Gaza since its unilateral pullout, according to Haaretz.

Israeli occupation forces pulled out from the impoverished Gaza Strip in September after 38 years of military presence.

Comdemned

Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim defended the new measure as part of efforts to end Palestinian rocket attacks.

"If we must, we will have to tighten the screw further," he told Israel Radio.

Boim further said Israel might fire artillery shells toward populated areas of the Gaza Strip as opposed to open fields.

The makeshift Palestinian rockets rarely cause casualties.

Palestinian factions maintain the rockets are to avenge Israeli raids in the occupied West Bank as well as its strikes into the Gaza Strip.

Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat blasted the buffer zone idea, reported Reuters.

"Israeli threats, escalation and the re-occupation of Gaza will not solve the problem, it will create problems," he maintained.

Palestinian forces said they had refused an Israeli request to evacuate the border zone and were continuing their own efforts to prevent rocket firing from amid the rubble of former Jewish settlements at the border.

"We will not move one inch," said Assayed Shaban, commander of forces in northern Gaza.

Collective Punishment

Israeli security sources said further steps were being considered if the rocket fire did not stop.

MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud), chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said he would not rule out cutting off electricity to the Gaza Strip for an hour following each rocket attack, or a full day following an attack that causes casualties.

An Israeli government source said senior military commanders strongly opposed the idea as a collective punishment, saying it would be hard to justify.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz also opposes the idea.

The proposal also drew firm from human rights groups.

Israeli official ruled out a major ground offensive in Gaza as threatened by the military on Thursday.

Israel has already launched missiles and artillery fire at suspected launching areas and killed several Palestinian activists in recent months.

It has also decided to step up its assassination of senior Islamic Jihad officials.

Palestinian resistance factions have been observing a de facto truce since Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was elected in January, an agreement that was cemented at talks brokered by Egypt last March.

Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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