Knesset committee reviews 'no-go' zone

IDF rep. tries to mitigate Halutz's comment that zone doesn't protect Sderot.

halutz fists 298 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
halutz fists 298 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said on Tuesday that the Blue Skies policy, intended to create a restricted, or a "no-go," zone in the northern Gaza Strip, has not effectively curbed attacks on Sderot. His comments came in response to an assault of seven Kassam rockets fired at the western Negev earlier in the day. According to Halutz, who briefed members of the Knesset's Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, the strategy was assumed out of fear that strategic sites near Ashkelon could be targeted. Also speaking at the committee meeting was Shin Bet (Internal Security) chief Yuval Diskin, who expressed his belief that the Palestinians would not cease from launching Kassams into Israel, and would continue in their attempts to execute terrorist operations against Israelis. He reported that already today Fatah held rockets with a 30 km. range. Committee chaiman Yuval Steinitz (Likud) noted that operation Blue Skies was only a partial solution to rockets fired at Ashkelon, but not against those fired at Sderot. The mode of operation would have to change, there would be no alternative to a ground operation [in Gaza] in order to decimate the terror industry, he concluded. Following the chief of general staff's widely reported comments, the IDF spokesman office vehemently rejected the comments attributed to Halutz, saying it was taken out of context. According to the statement, the reports were "only partial and did not reflect the position of the chief of staff or the situation as it was presented." The IDF explained that operation Blue Skies was meant to be used solely in areas devoid of civilian population. For populated areas, it noted, different strategies were required. They went on to say that its actions had positive results, noting that it has pushed back the Kassam's capability of reaching Ashkelon and reduced the effectivity of the Kassam threat on Sderot and communities around it. The IDF wants to clarify that the IDF is acting, and will continue to act with determination continuously against the Kassam threat on the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip." Despite IDF activity in Gaza, terror organizations have continued firing Kassam rockets into Israel. Army artillery units responded by shelling the launching areas. The "no-go" zone was enacted during the weekend in response to a week-long Kassam assault, with the rockets reaching further and further north, including several hits in the southern coastal city of Ashkelon. The zone included the northern two kilometers of the Gaza Strip covering the former settlements of Dugit, Nisanit, and Elei Sinai.