Gaza appeasement emboldens Arabs : Egypt preparing for possible war with Israel - main source of weapons for Hamas
December 27, 2005
Steinitz: Egypt is Preparing for Possible War with Israel Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Wed 28 Dec 2005
Israeli raids aim to spike Palestinian rocket fireBEN LYNFIELD IN JERUSALEM
ISRAEL'S airforce yesterday struck targets in the northern Gaza Strip in a show of firepower on the eve of the establishment of a security zone aimed at thwarting Palestinian rocket fire.
Helicopter gunships and fighter jets attacked at least nine targets, cutting off electricity to a town and blowing craters in half a dozen roads. Among the targets struck were offices of the ruling Palestinian Fatah movement and a bridge the army said was used by rocket-firing militants.
Army officials yesterday confirmed that a buffer zone to place Israeli targets out of range of Palestinian rockets "is in the works" but they said details were still being worked out. They added that the air strikes were not part of the zone's establishment but "part of ongoing activities against those launching rockets".
The decision to establish the zone comes after an increase in the range of Palestinian rockets. While previously most rockets were fired towards the border town of Sderot, a rocket recently landed near the power plant of the larger city of Ashkelon. The zone's establishment also comes during the early part of the campaign for March 28 elections, with the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, anxious to avoid criticism from far-right elements who blame his withdrawal from the Gaza Strip for fuelling violence. However, Mr Sharon is reluctant to send in ground troops.
The army said offices of the Fatah-affiliated al-Aksa martyrs brigades militia were targeted because they were used for meetings to plan attacks. Palestinians said they were used for educational and social purposes. A bridge the army said was used by militants to reach launching areas was also destroyed without casualties.
Israeli military analyst Reuven Pedhazur said the security zone could be effective in placing Israeli targets out of range, but only for a limited period. "The problem is that the militants will acquire a longer- range capability," he said, "and it is not possible to turn all the Gaza Strip into a buffer zone."
Israel maintained a "security zone" against rockets fired from southern Lebanon from 1985 to 2000, using its troops to police it. The number of casualties incurred eventually prompted Israel to pull out.
Meanwhile, hundreds of young settlers set up illegal outposts in the West Bank, a settlers' spokeswoman said, defying a government pledge to remove young settlements.
Datya Yitzhaki, a spokeswoman for the settler group Land of Israel Faithful, said 15 structures were established and predicted that ten more would be erected by the end of the Jewish holiday of Hanu-kkah on Sunday.
Between 60 and 200 people were squatting in each location, she said, adding that the latest outposts were a response to the Israeli removal of the Gaza Strip settlements.