Last update - 08:55 14/06/2007
Defense establishment to rethink Gaza policy after Hamas conquest
By Haaretz Service
The defense establishment is to hold meetings next week in an effort to prepare recommendations for a new policy in the Gaza Strip, in the wake of what seems to a Hamas conquest of the area.
The general assessment in the Israel Defense Forces is that there is a new reality in the Strip and that Hamas has defeated Fatah in the battle for power.
Israel is watching the developments in the area with grave concern.
Hamas effectively completed its victory over Fatah in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday following a day of fighting in which 26 people were killed.
Most of the dead were affiliated with Fatah, although at least two civilians participating in a peace demonstration and two United Nations aid workers were also killed. Since the fighting began Sunday, at least 67Palestinians have been killed in the internecine battles.
Since Hamas is boycotted by Israel, it is still unclear how essential contacts will be handled, particularly in matters of coordination over the control of transit points and the entry into Israel of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip for humanitarian purposes.
At this stage all crossings into the Gaza Strip are closed to traffic because of the fighting. IDF forces along the border fence have been instructed to show restraint and avoid being dragged into the Palestinian infighting.
Israeli political sources said Wednesday that the Hamas takeover requires that Israel reexamine its ties with the Gaza Strip, and whether it will continue its economic ties, the infrastructure links - providing of fuel and electricity from Israel.
The situation emerging in the Gaza Strip is also lending greater urgency to the decision of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to promote an initiative for the deployment of a multi-national force along the Philadelphi Route and for the construction of a barrier to combat smuggling of arms and weapons into the Gaza Strip.
A strategy for the containment of the current situation will be on the agenda of talks between Olmert and President George Bush in Washington next Tuesday.