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Israel Masses Troops and Tanks on Gaza Border - 2004-10-01


Israel has sent reinforcements into Gaza, after the security cabinet approved Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's call for intensifying military operations there. The aim is to stop Palestinian rocket attacks against Jewish settlements and Israeli border towns.

Scores of Israeli tanks and troops have moved into the northern part of the Gaza Strip. The increased military presence there was approved late Thursday by Israel's security cabinet.

Government adviser Zalman Shoval says the aim of putting more Israeli forces into Gaza is to stop Palestinians rocket and mortar attacks on towns bordering the Palestinian territory. "By more or less covering the whole area from which there is a potential of launching these rockets, we hope to eliminate them as much as possible," said Zalman Shoval.

Mr. Shoval says the operation is open-ended.

"It will go on as long as we believe the danger exists," he said.

The stepped-up campaign comes a day after one of the bloodiest confrontations in four years of conflict. More than 27 Palestinians and three Israelis died in fighting Thursday in Gaza.

Israel expects the clashes will probably increase, until Prime Minister Sharon carries out his plan to withdraw settlers from the area sometime next year.

But Mr. Shoval says, even after the pullout, Israel reserves the right to continue military operations in Gaza, if Palestinian security forces there do not prevent attacks against Israeli border towns.

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