Analysis: Gaza 'No-go' zone doomed to failure [pg. 2]

Israel's establishment of a buffer zone in the northern Gaza Strip is doomed to failure, according to some Israeli and Palestinian analysts. Neither Israeli missiles nor retaliatory raids can stop the rash of Kassams, largely because the rockets launched into Israel from northern Gaza have little to do with Israel and much to do with Palestinian anarchy, they say. Early Monday morning, Israel hit several Fatah targets in Gaza, including Aksa Martyrs Brigades headquarters and a Fatah recruitment center, in an effort to stop the rocket launchers. It also created a "no-go" zone in Gaza by bombing several major access routes to areas believed to be launch sites used by Islamic Jihad and Fatah mortar men. Eitan Azani, a senior fellow at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, said Israel's security zone in Lebanon failed to stop Hizbullah from firing Katyusha rockets at Israel, and so would a similar effort in Gaza. "One of the benefits of the rockets is that batteries are easily moved," he said. "The fact is, you can pretty much fire a Kassam rocket from anywhere in Gaza and it will hit Israel." Like Azani, Dr. Iyad Sarraj, founder of the Gaza Mental Health Clinic, believes the problem is not technical but political. "Fatah itself is becoming too many Fatahs," he said. Fatah, the oldest and largest Palestinian faction, was founded by Yasser Arafat in 1959 and is considered the spearhead of the Palestinian national cause. Sarraj said it is now a shambles and is liable to implode. The rocket launchers are trying to grab the attention of Fatah leaders - either for political clout or payment, say some Israeli and Palestinian experts. Sarraj, an old hand at Palestinian politics, said most Palestinians were dead set against the launching of rockets, if only for the "terrible response of the Israelis. It makes everyone here so vulnerable, exposed and anxious." But the Palestinians, and possibly the Israelis have not seen the worst yet, he said, adding: "We are expecting the worst to this internal Fatah fighting... This could escalate into bloodshed" within the party itself. Sarraj said he could see Fatah, the more established and traditionally more moderate party, "switching roles with Hamas." "Hamas is staying very cool," he said. "And it is gaining on all the other factions who are using these tactics [rockets]." Sarraj said Hamas was "on the way to becoming the government," with Israel and the US "eventually welcoming this development." Some Israeli analysts see the same. The Kassam rockets and the Gaza lawlessness, including almost monthly kidnappings and commandeering of public buildings, are just symptoms of an imploding Fatah, according to Gidi Greenstein, president of the Reut Institute, a Tel Aviv-based think-tank. And the "buffer zone" is a symptom of "the trap Israel is in," he said. On the one hand, Greenstein said, Israel signed an agreement ceding control of the Gaza Strip, including its southern borders, to the Palestinians. The Palestinians cannot "live up to that agreement," but if Israel enters Gaza to stop the rockets, it "corrodes all those reasons that it left Gaza." Greenstein predicted that Fatah's implosion would worsen after the PA elections, with Hamas gaining a sizable portion, if not a blocking majority, of the seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council. "In Reut, we think Hamas could take the elections," he said. "Even if Fatah does not garner 50 percent of the parliament, it will be a huge change in Palestinian politics." At this point, Greenstein said, the entire notion of a negotiating partner would dissolve, and Israel again would be forced to choose between the status quo and unilateral disengagement. Azani, a retired colonel who spent years in Lebanon, believes the rockets will continue to pound Israeli towns near Gaza, regardless of the Palestinian's near political future. "In southern Lebanon, nothing leaves Lebanese airspace without [Hizbullah secretarygeneral Hassan] Nasrallah's approval," he said, adding that in factionalized Gaza, "things are very different."