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Palestinians: Large IDF force enters northern Gaza

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    Last Update: 01/10/2004 07:48 Palestinians: Large IDF force enters northern Gaza http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/483526.html By Aluf Benn, Amos Harel,
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 1, 2004
      Last Update: 01/10/2004 07:48

      Palestinians: Large IDF force enters northern Gaza
      http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/483526.html
      By Aluf Benn, Amos Harel, Arnon Regular, and Nir Hason, Haaretz
      Correspondents

      A large number of Israel Defense Forces troops, accompanied by 100 tanks
      and helicopters flying overhead, entered the northern Gaza Strip early
      Friday, Israel Radio quoted Palestinian security officials as saying. The
      sources said that tanks had entered Beit Lahiya, the Jabalya refugee camp,
      and Beit Hanun.

      The move comes after the security cabinet approved unanimously on Thursday
      Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plans for an expanded military ground
      operation in the Gaza Strip in response to the launching of Qassam rockets
      and the recent escalation of hostilities in the region.

      Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and the heads of the Israel Defense Forces
      presented the plan to Sharon on Thursday evening prior to the cabinet
      meeting.

      The plan, code-named "Days of Penitence," will include an expanded IDF
      ground operation in areas from where Qassam rockets can be launched in the
      direction of Sderot, "exacting a price" from terror organizations in Gaza,
      and preparation for an extended stay in the territory.

      A number of cabinet ministers will propose applying heavy pressure on the
      Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip in an effort to compel
      residents to prevent the firing of Qassam rockets into Israel proper.

      Senior diplomatic sources said on Thursday evening that the current
      escalation in Gaza will have no effect on Sharon's disengagement plan.

      Mofaz announced on Thursday a "large-scale and prolonged operation" aimed
      at pushing Qassam rockets out of range of the hard-hit Negev town of
      Sderot, ordering the IDF to step up the campaign already underway in Gaza
      and to prepare to take over a buffer zone in the northern Gaza Strip.

      The announcement follows Wednesday's Qassam rocket attack on Sderot, which
      claimed the lives of two pre-schoolers.

      On Thursday, three Israelis and at least 13 Palestinians were killed in
      separate incidents in the Gaza Strip.

      Mofaz announced his new directives after a special assessment meeting with
      the heads of Israel's security branches.

      Mofaz declared that Wednesday's "murder of children" was an "unforgivable
      and intolerable" act, to which Israel must respond.

      The operation is also aimed at handing the terror infrastructure in Gaza a
      heavy blow. The third objective set forward was the improvement of the
      defenses of the area's settlements.

      "Israeli army activities in the Gaza Strip have a clear objective of
      enabling Israelis to sit in their living rooms and backyards in peace and
      without fear of being bombarded by Palestinian rockets and missiles," said
      David Baker, an official in the Prime Minister's Office.

      "This is our inherent right, the right to live in peace and Israel is
      committed to the security of its citizens," Baker said.

      The chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, MK Yuval
      Steinitz (Likud), called for an IDF takeover of the entire Gaza Strip,
      saying, "Israel should wage operation Defensive Shield number two in Gaza,
      take control of the entire Strip in a wide-spread operation over a period
      of a few weeks to gather information, destroy the terrorist organizations'
      infrastructure and wipe out any slicks of arms as well as the foundations
      for manufacturing Qassam rockets."

      Steinitz added that he would bring these issues up in planned meetings with
      Sharon. "Since the technology for laser interception of missiles has yet to
      be realized, we must significantly damage terrorist infrastructures. It is
      our only option to ease the situation."

      MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor) said that Sharon and Defense Minister Mofaz must
      halt the deteriorating security situation, which is in danger of embroiling
      Israel in an endless war of attrition against Palestinian militants,
      according to Israel Radio.

      Pines-Paz also called on the prime minister to speed up implementation of
      the disengagement plan.

      PA calls for international intervention
      The Palestinian Authority on Thursday called for the international
      community to put a stop to Israel's actions in Gaza.

      Nabil Abu Rudeineh, an advisor to chairman Yasser Arafat, said the PA is
      requesting "the UN Security Council, the Quartet, and the United States to
      get involved immediately to put an end to the massacres Israel is
      committing in Gaza."
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