Israel Creates a Security Zone in the Northern Gaza Strip
This is a dispatch from today's Le Monde:
Since last Wednesday, the Gaza Strip is not longer completely accessible to Palestinians. At 6:00 pm (local time), the sector surrounding the ruins of the former Israeli colonies of Dugit, Eleï Sinaï and Nissanit has been declared a no-man's land by Israel. This area, approximately 1 km deep, had been transformed over the last few weeks into a launching site for home-made Qassam rockets by members of Islamic Jihad. On December 18, a rocket landed in the industrial zone of the Israeli town of Ashkelon, which includes several sites deemed "strategic", including a power station and a fuel depot. A few days later, three soldiers were wounded by the explosion of a Qassam rocket near their camp.
On Wednesday December 28 at 4:00 pm, shortly before the declaration of a "security zone", the Israeli Army airdropped flyers warning the populace that any person found in the area, which is uninhabited, would be targeted. During a meeting with their Palestinian counterparts, Israeli officers drew the outline of the area, which is soon to be protected by a wall. In the evening, a Palestinian rocket struck the outskirts of Sderot, a town in the Negev Desert on the edge of the Gaza Strip. No one was injured. During the night between Wednesday and Thursday, the Israeli Army fired a dozen mortar rounds at several targets inside the buffer zone. At dawn a car carrying a team of Qassam launchers narrowly escaped the mortar barrage.
The Palestinian Authority has condemned the move by Ariel Sharon. Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip and has no right to return under any pretext, including that of rocket launches, which, by the way, we equally condemn, declared President Mahmoud Abbas. Since the end of the Israeli evacuation from the Gaza Strip on September 15, nearly 240 Qassam rockets have been fired by armed Palestinian groups. No Israeli was killed by the rockets, of which only 160 reached Israeli territory.
Hamas, the inventors of the Qassam, has avoided participating in these action since the end of September to avoid damage to its campaign for the elections scheduled on January 25th. The prime responsibility for the attacks is Islamic Jihad, a tiny Islamist group that will not participate in the vote and which has never felt bound by the truce declared in March. At the same time, Israel has asassinated a number of militants using helicopter-launched rockets.
At least one Israeli was killed Thurdsay morning in a suicide attack near a West Bank checkpoint. There were at least two suicide bombers, including a woman. An Englishwoman, employed by a Palestinian human rights organization and her parents will kidnapped Wednesday in Rafah.
Interim news service.