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After Hamas fired a longer-range Kassam rocket that hit the city of Ashkelon, the Israeli cabinet has decided to respond to this escalation by pushing the Palestinians farther away. The IDF will deepen their northern incursion into Gaza and start leveling residential structures in their rocket-staging area, intending to set up a permanent buffer zone:
The Security Cabinet approved a deeper military incursion into the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, following the Kassam that demonstrated a new, longer rage by landing in an Ashkelon school on Tuesday night.
The IDF has been given the green light to enter residential areas, but will not reoccupy the Gaza Strip, an official at the meeting said. A buffer zone will be created in the northern part of the Strip. ...
Defense Minister Amir Peretz ordered the IDF to increase its activities in the Gaza Strip as part of "Operation Summer Rains."
Peretz stressed that one of the goals of the operation was to "remove the threat of Kassams."
Ze'ev Boim, a member of the cabinet said, "as far as I'm concerned, the people of (northern Gaza towns) Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya can start packing."
If the Israelis mean to set up a buffer zone that encompasses Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya, it looks like they will take the first two miles or so off the top of Gaza, according to this map. Four former settlements will be reabsorbed, but the Israelis do not plan on annexing the land. They want to clear the area and set up what amounts to a no-man's-land to keep those 40 square kilometers or so from acting as a staging ground for the Kassams. (One frustrating aspect of this conflict is the lack of good maps of Gaza, even from this Palestinian source. Beit Hanoun is the orange blob next to the arrow showing the passage to the West Bank.)
As we have noted numerous times, the Kassams represented a casus belli long before the Palestinians invaded Israel from Gaza and abducted Gilad Shalit. The Israelis have now responded, somewhat tardily, to this series of provocations, and only when they escalated into a real threat to Ashkelon. The IDF will place themselves within range of these rockets instead of their civilian population being the targets, and the reaction time to future launches will shrink dramatically. The new Olmert government appears more ready to use military action to counter terrorist threats.
As for eliminating these two towns, the Israelis can expect plenty of diplomatic heat over that solution. That sounds like ethnic cleansing, and the memory of Slobodan Milosevic will hang heavy over that threat. However, Israel cannot simply allow Hamas and Islamic Jihad to continue to shoot rockets into Israel, and the fact is that the Palestinian Authority has never taken any steps at all to stop them. The role of Hamas in these attacks makes them an act of war, and Israel has the right to respond -- but they cannot simply demolish residential areas to do so, at least not under common interpretations of the rules of war. The Israelis will need to refine that idea, perhaps by establishg the buffer close enough to both towns to see the specific launch sites and demolish them as an acceptable response to the provocation.
It also points towards a much longer Israeli operation than described by the IDF and the media. Even if Shalit gets released unharmed at this point, the Israelis will not back down on the rocket attacks. Hamas in the West Bank apparently cannot and/or will not force an end to the attacks, and therefore Israel must put some plan into place to protect its civilians from random aerial attacks.Sphere It View blog reactions
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» Israeli Cabinet OKs Deeper Gaza Incursion from Morning Coffee
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel’s Security Cabinet approved a deeper military incursion into the Gaza Strip Wednesday after Palestinian militants fired a rocket at a major Israeli city, an official at the meeting said. Full Story here I... [Read More]
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"Israeli leaders stepped up a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, authorizing troops Wednesday to move into residential areas and create a security zone to prevent militants from firing rockets into Israel," the AP reports. The Security Cabinet's decis... [Read More]
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Tracked on July 8, 2006 8:13 PM
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