Gaza Strip to Reopen as Debate Over Future Continues
JERUSALEM (AP) _ The army prepared Monday to lift its blockade of the occupied Gaza Strip, permitting Palestinians to enter Israel for the first time in seven days but with tougher border checks.
The poverty-stricken coastal area, home to 750,000 Palestinians, was sealed off Tuesday, a day after a 19-year-old Gazan went on a stabbing rampage in Tel Aviv and killed two people and wounded nine.
Staff at border checkpoints will be increased and soldiers will be stricter about checking entry permits when the borders reopen, the army said.
The day the strip was shut down, an Israeli bill collector mistakenly drove into the Gaza Strip’s Rafah refugee camp and was stoned and shot to death by Palestinians.
The government also is investigating charges by the strip’s military commander that U.N. aid workers witnessed that killing and left without trying to intervene or notify Israeli soldiers.
A U.N. spokesman, Rolf Van Uye, said an aid worker was at the scene but was prevented from getting close to the victim’s car by the crowd. She then went to a U.N. office to report the attack, Van Uye said.
The spate of violence renewed a debate in Israel over withdrawing from the strip, which was seized by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.
Health Minister Haim Ramon said Sunday he was assured a Cabinet debate on withdrawal from Gaza would be held after Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin returned from a trip to the United States later this month.
Supporters of pulling out of Gaza argue that it would prevent attacks on Israelis. Opponents say abandoning control of Gaza would turn it into a base for even more anti-Israel violence.
Arab reports said Sunday that security forces arrested the commander of the Red Eagles, a Gaza group affiliated with the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Border police arrested Ahmed Issatari, 24, in the el Bureij refugee camp, the reports said.
Israeli authorities blame groups like the Red Eagles for attacks on Israeli targets and for killing suspected Palestinian informers.