Israel is reportedly working to create a one-kilometre-wide “security belt” around the Gaza Strip, amid US rejection and criticism from international experts.
Osama Hamdan, a Hamas official, said that Israel's efforts to create a buffer zone along its border with Gaza constitute a “crime” and an act of “blatant aggression” against the Palestinian people, following media reports that such a plan was being implemented.
Hamdan, who is based in Lebanon, told reporters on Thursday that Israel “is looking to create a security belt along the Strip’s borders by leveling entire residential buildings and bulldozing farms and civilian infrastructure.”
He said: “This is a crime and a blatant aggression against our land and our sanctities,” adding that “our people and our resistance will thwart these attempts.”
Hamdan described Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “delusional” and said that Gaza would become a “cemetery” for his plans. He also criticized the United States for “fueling” the Israeli military machine and its complicity in crimes against Gaza.
Israeli media reported on Wednesday that its military aims to create an informal buffer zone about a kilometer (half a mile) wide to prevent attackers from reaching Israeli communities near Gaza.
Two television channels showed footage showing what appeared to be a controlled demolition of several buildings on the Gaza side of the border, which broadcasters said took place in the area of an attack that killed 24 Israeli soldiers on Monday, resulting in the IDF's heaviest loss. Life in one attack since October 7th.
Satellite images taken by Planet Labs PBC last Saturday, a day before the attack, appear to show the uniform destruction of buildings and agricultural fields in the area.
Military spokesmen did not use the term “buffer zone,” but they say forces are uprooting infrastructure near the border to provide security for Israeli communities on the other side.
The Secretary-General of the Palestinian National Initiative Party, Mustafa Barghouti, said that the real intention behind this step is to reduce the size of Gaza. Barghouti told Al Jazeera that if he were executed, it could only be seen as an act of “ethnic cleansing” while also signaling an acknowledgment of the failure of Israeli military objectives in Gaza.
“Unjustified” under international law
Jeffrey Ness, a former UN war crimes prosecutor, told Al Jazeera that Israel had no legal basis to create a “buffer zone” in Gaza by destroying Palestinian homes and confiscating agricultural land.
“If you want a demilitarized zone that you are going to fill with landmines, why not make it on the Israeli side and prevent people from crossing it?” Asked. “What they are proposing, effectively and in anyone’s interpretation, is occupation.”
He pointed out that the fertile agricultural lands that Israel is looking to seize are considered “vital to Gaza's economy.”
“But the process has already begun. A large number of buildings have already been razed to the ground. This is not justified, in any way, under international law,” Ness said, suggesting sanctions by powerful countries on Israel to stop the land seizure.
The United States, which strongly supports what it says is Israel's right to self-defense, said it opposes any attempt by Israel to reduce Gaza's territory or occupy it militarily.
The United States and much of the international community have proposed a post-war plan that includes the creation of a Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution to the conflict, a possibility that Netanyahu has rejected.
Barghouti said that if the United States was serious about its opposition to the buffer zone, it would ask Israel to stop its attacks on Gaza.
He added: “The United States, unfortunately, is a participant in this war, and as long as it does not support the ceasefire, it becomes a partner in the war crimes that occur in Gaza.”
Al Jazeera's Kimberly Halkett, reporting from Washington, D.C., said that Israeli plans to create a buffer zone in Gaza are not going well in the White House. “This is just another example of the growing disagreement between… [US President Joe] “The Biden administration and the Israeli government,” she said.
“There is some scope for a transitional arrangement on the buffer zone, but the concern…is that historically transitional arrangements have become permanent.”
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