Gaza is free now? Dream on.

Both of the following articles are from Haaretz, 15th April 2006. See this ISM digest for action you can take to stop the bombing of Gaza, along with more background information and video.

IDF enters Gaza for first time since pullout

by Amos Harel

The Israel Defense Forces yesterday entered Palestinian Authority territory in the Gaza Strip openly for the first time since last summer’s disengagement. IDF soldiers crossed the Green Line fence and penetrated about 100 meters into the PA in order to examine the place in which two armed Palestinians were killed on Wednesday and to ensure that no bombs had been planted there.

The Palestinians had planned to attack either an Israeli community or a military patrol on Wednesday evening.

At around 5 P.M., two women soldiers on duty saw two armed Palestinians crawling toward the fence south of the Kissufim border crossing. The men were first fired on by a tank, then from the air and were killed. They were found to be carrying two Kalashnikov assault rifles, ammunition clips, grenades, a two-way radio and barbed-wire cutters. The bodies of the men, identified as Ibrahim Masoud, 20, and Muhammad Elamudi, 22, from the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza, were removed by the International Red Cross.

“If Hamas leaders don’t act to stop the rockets, they must be hit hard and pay a heavy price,” Brigadier General Gadi Eisenkot, head of operations at General Staff Headquarters said. “What we saw up to now was just an introduction.”

“We have full legitimacy to impose great force when they continue to fire on our towns. The Israeli public also understands that, and so does the international arena. I don’t see anyone in the world getting upset about it,” Eisenkot continued.

Eisenkot claims that “we are not trying to purposely fan the flames,” but in the same breath he admits that “we realize that a wider confrontation could result. In my opinion that’s preferable to them getting us accustomed to 25 Qassams a week. True, no Israelis have been killed by Qassams since the disengagement but there is another test that must not be ignored: the sense of security of the people living in proximity to Gaza.”

See full interview with Brig. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, p. B1.

The Palestinian organizations often use explosive devices that can be deployed remotely against soldiers on the Israeli side of the border. Until a week ago, when Israel suspended contact with the Palestinian security forces in Gaza in response to the swearing-in of the Hamas government, the Palestinians used to search for such devices in coordination with the IDF. The IDF will now patrol the Palestinian side.

Two Qassams were fired in the area during the IDF operation. No one was injured.

IDF artillery continued to shell Gaza during the holiday.

IDF sources claim that the Qassams have grown less accurate as a result of the Israeli military pressure on the launching areas.

Yesterday morning, troops uncovered an explosives laboratory in the West Bank village of Burkin near Jenin. Thirty kilograms of explosives as well as four devices and related equipment were found at the site, which was run by Islamic Jihad. Border Police sappers blew up the lab under controlled conditions.

A young Palestinian man carrying a makeshift pistol and an ax was apprehended by soldiers of the IDF’s ultra-Orthodox Nahal unit at the Beqaot junction east of Nablus.

The army arrested 15 Palestinians on the West Bank over the weekend.

Arnon Regular contributed to this story.

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US Blocks Security Council Resolution Condeming Gaza Bombing

By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and Agencies

The Arab states on Friday requested an open debate in the United Nations Security Council on Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip, a day after the Council failed to agree on a statement on the recent surge in violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

The United States nixed the draft, proposed by Qatar, calling it unfairly critical of Israel.

The draft, put forward on behalf of the Palestinians, would have expressed concern about the “indiscriminate shelling against the Gaza Strip, resulting in extensive human casualties” and called on Israel to halt “military operations and excessive use of force that endangers the Palestinian civilian populations.”

The United States had argued for its long-standing belief that any such statement mention both sides’ obligations under the road map and cite Palestinian attacks against Israel as well.

Because the draft failed, the Security Council will hold an open meeting on Monday when any of the 191 member states of the United Nations can speak. The council will also hold a monthly meeting on the Middle East a week after that.

Palestinian UN observer Riyad Mansour strongly suggested that the United States was the lone holdout against the statement, though he did not mention the U.S. by name.

He referred to “one member who is shielding and protecting the Israeli actions and aggression against the Palestinian people in Gaza and in other parts of the occupied territory.”

Diplomats said Britain and Denmark also had problems with the draft, and U.S. Ambassador John Bolton would not say if the United States was the only one opposed.

“If I were the only holdout I’d be proud of that fact,” Bolton said after the council could not agree on the text.

“The balance of the text as it ended up was still not adequate in our view and we weren’t prepared to support it,” Bolton said. “It was disproportionately critical of Israel, and unfairly so and needlessly so.”

The Palestinians had called on the UN Security Council Monday to take urgent action to stop what they called an escalating military campaign by Israeli forces.

Mansour had said in a letter to the council that at least 18 Palestinians have been killed since last Friday and scores more have been wounded in a barrage of military attacks.

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