One of the more unfortunate consequences of the Israeli pullout from Gaza has been their continuing inability to quiet the rocket salvos that now pour into Israel from newly “liberated” Palestinian territory. Once considered a nuisance, the rocket fire has been increasing in intensity, and is causing Israel to consider new security measures, since the vaunted Palestinian Authority appears unwilling to do anything about it. From the New York Times:
Frustrated by continuing rocket fire from Gaza, the territory Israel evacuated over the summer, Israel is trying to enforce a buffer zone in northern Gaza through air and artillery strikes, a deputy defense minister, Zeev Boim, said Friday.
The intention is to prevent Palestinian militants from using former northern Gaza settlements like Dugit and Nissanit, now piles of rubble, to fire rockets into Israel. In the last few days, rockets have hit the outskirts of Ashkelon, raising concerns about a big power plant there, and in Sederot, a regular target of rocket fire. On Thursday, a rocket landed in an Israeli Army base on the border, slightly wounding five soldiers, and Israeli shelling in response killed a Palestinian in Jabaliya.
Israel, in the midst of an election campaign, is threatening a temporary reinvasion of northern Gaza with ground troops, though the preference is to discourage the rocket firing through shelling and airstrikes – mostly on open fields where rockets are sometimes fired.
But Mr. Boim on Friday suggested that Israel might fire artillery toward populated areas as well. “We need to tell the residents of Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahiya and the suburbs of Jabaliya: ‘In 12 hours, artillery will land in the area; evacuate these areas,’ ” he told Israeli Army radio. “I think one operation of this sort can solve the problem.”
Palestinian security forces who are patrolling northern Gaza and say they are trying to stop the rocket fire also say they will not evacuate the area, which they now consider sovereign and liberated Palestinian land.
So Israelis are imagining other ways to create popular pressure on the militants to stop firing, with suggestions that Israel cut off all electrical power to Gaza, a move of dubious legality. Human Rights Watch, for instance, says that such a cutoff would constitute collective punishment of a civilian population under international law.
Of course, and obeying the strictures of war as set down by Human Rights Watch should be the primary assignment for Israeli government officials.