Sharon Addresses Israel Amid New Violence
Sharon said during his televised speech, ”In order to increase the security of Israeli subjects, we have decided to set up buffer zones in order to achieve security and to set up obstacles along the border zones.”
Sharon said the buffer zones are intended to facilitate peace negotiations. The zones will be set up along the border to Palestinian territories.
The prime minister also said peace is a two-step process, and that a cease-fire would have to occur before Israel will consider talks on negotiating official borders.
Sharon’s announcement came shortly after Israeli forces launched a second round of reprisal strikes against Palestinian security targets. The raids are in turn in response to Tuesday’s surprise raid by Palestinian militants that left six Israeli soldiers dead.
Israeli Defense Forces fired missiles from helicopters and gunships at Palestinian targets in the Gaza Strip, near the United Nations offices and the offices of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. Arafat was in the West Bank city of Ramallah at the time.
Israeli missiles also struck a Palestinian security complex in the refugee camp of Rafah for the second day.
Thursday’s latest reprisal attacks follow earlier strikes by Israeli helicopters and gunships across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. These attacks killed at least eight Palestinians and hit Arafat’s headquarters.
Israeli soldiers also entered Gaza City for the first time in 17 months. Five Palestinian civilians, three gunmen and an Israeli Arab man were killed in the fighting.
Israeli security halted movement through all West Bank cities, except for humanitarian reasons. Such civilian restrictions have prompted protests from Palestinian human rights groups.
Earlier today, Arafat again appealed to the Palestinian people to cease attacks.
“We reiterate before all of you one more time the initiative that I launched on December 16 to make the cease-fire hold, and also to pursue the peace process,” Arafat told reporters at a press conference today.
Arafat’s security forces announced today they have arrested three suspects in the October assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rahavam Zeevi.
Israel has confined Arafat to his West Bank headquarters since December, saying he would be released after those responsible for Zeevi’s assassination were arrested. Raanan Gissin, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, told the Associated Press that the travel ban would be lifted only after the Palestinian Authority put the suspects on trial.
The latest spate of attacks has been among the bloodiest since fighting reignited in September 2000.