Kassam 'buffer zone' to be established

Range of IDF artillery and aircraft fire will be increased.

sharon in cabinet 298 (photo credit: AP)
sharon in cabinet 298
(photo credit: AP)
Israel will implement its "no-go" policy in the northern Gaza Strip as soon as weather permits the IDF's state-of-the art technology to accurately identify and fire on anything that moves in the area, a senior government official said Sunday. The official's comments came after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon convened a special meeting of top security officials to discuss last week's Kassam attacks on Ashkelon. Sharon called for the implementation of the buffer zone policy designed to keep terrorists launching Kassam rockets from entering the areas in northern Gaza where they have been able to fire on the southern outskirts of Ashkelon. The official said that when the policy is implemented, the Palestinians would be warned that anyone who entered the two-kilometer no-go zone would be fired upon. "We will consider anyone who tries to enter the area armed and dangerous and act accordingly," the official said. "We are looking for deterrence, we want people to understand that if they go into the area they will be targeted." The official also said that Israel understood this policy would likely cause hardship to the Palestinian population in the area, but the hope was that the population would then prevail on the terrorist organizations involved to stop. "If it causes inconvenience to the population they are urged to put pressure on Islamic Jihad, the ones hurting them," the official said. Sharon convened the meeting, which included Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin, and National Security Council head Giora Eiland after a cabinet meeting, which also devoted much time to the security situation in the south. Mofaz told the cabinet that the policy of targeted assassinations, especially against the leaders of Islamic Jihad who were responsible for the rocket attacks, would continue. He said that Hamas had not been involved in the attacks, apparently because it wanted to strike a more "responsible" pose before the upcoming Palestinian elections. Mofaz said that Islamic Jihad, on the other hand, was using the rocket attacks as a way of bolstering its status as a leader in the struggle against Israel. Mofaz stressed the continued lack of effectiveness of the PA, and said he directed the IDF to prepare for an escalation of terror attacks. He said that in view of the continued warnings of terror attacks, and the PA's weakness, the closure that was clamped on the territories last week would continue throughout Hanukka. Mofaz also asked the government to allocate an additional NIS 125 million to reinforce the homes and public institutions in communities bordering Gaza that are at high risk of Kassam attacks. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom also briefed the cabinet, focusing on the ongoing crisis with Iran, as well as the upcoming Palestinian elections. Regarding Iran, Shalom said that even though there has been no progress in getting Iran to stop its nuclear program, he directed Israeli representatives around the world to make it clear that "Israel continues to see the diplomatic channel as the preferred track in solving the crisis." Shalom said that Iran has let Britain, France and Germany know that it intended to enrich uranium on its soil even at the price of having the issue sent to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions. "From our point of view the situation continues to be grave and very dangerous," Shalom said. He said that Israel expected the US, EU and other like-minded countries would clamp sanctions on Iran without waiting for the issue to be taken to the UN Security Council, if Teheran violated the 2004 Paris agreement with the France, Britain and Germany in which it pledged that it "does not and will not seek to acquire nuclear weapons." In parallel with these sanctions, Shalom said Israel would expect a special session of the UN Security Council to discuss further steps against Iran. As far as the Palestinian elections were concerned, Shalom said the international community, especially Europe and the US, were increasingly worried about Hamas gaining strength in the upcoming elections. He said certain foreign emissaries have begun putting out feelers regarding the possibility of postponing the elections, and that Egypt has signaled that it would not oppose such a move. Shalom also told the cabinet that a meeting of the so-called "donor countries" in London last week turned down a special PA request for $60 million in aid, saying that the PA first needed to implement promised reform. Meanwhile, Egyptian police on Sunday arrested and detained three Egyptians who were trying to sneak across the border into Israel, apparently to seek work, Egyptian security officials said. The officials added that they were detained in El Arish, the provincial capital of north Sinai. Smuggling of people, drugs and contraband is frequent across Egypt's long desert border with Israel. AP contributed to this report.