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      Arabs Travel Freely In Gaza; Shooting Attack Near Netzarim

      The Tancher Route, the main north-south highway in Gaza, was opened to Arab traffic this morning - and only four hours later, shots were directed at an IDF position near Netzarim. No one was hurt, and the soldiers returned fire.
      First Publish: 6/30/2003, 10:58 AM

      The Tancher Route, the main north-south highway in Gaza, was opened to Arab traffic this morning - and only four hours later, shots were directed at an IDF position near Netzarim. No one was hurt, and the soldiers returned fire.

      Gush Katif residents and officials warn that experience has shown that opening the road leads to Jewish bloodshed. Several times in the past few years, the IDF closed the road in order to prevent terrorists from transporting explosives, weapons and themselves from the densely-populated Arab areas to the Jewish areas.

      The Tancher Route passes under the relatively new overpass via which Jews travel westward from the Kisufim Junction to the Katif bloc. Arabs will continue not to travel in the Katif bloc, which includes N'vei Dekalim, Netzer Hazani, Ganei Tal, and several other Jewish communities. The road also passes directly through the Jewish town of Kfar Darom - which is north of the Gush Katif bloc of Jewish communities - although the Arabs are currently directed to travel around, and not through, the town.

      It is still unclear whether IDF checkpoints will continue to be stationed along the Tancher Route to check for weapons and terrorists.

      IDF tractors and bulldozers worked this morning to remove the blockades from the Netzarim junction. Katif.net reports that the scene was surrealistic, in that Israeli soldiers are standing across from PA "policemen" whom just a few days or weeks ago they pursued in counter-terrorism offensives. The PA armed forces took up positions along the road near Netzarim.

      Netzarim is ten kilometers north of Kfar Darom and another few kilometers north of Gush Katif - yet Jews cannot travel from Netzarim directly to Kfar Darom or Katif. They must leave Gaza at the Nachal Oz junction, take a long detour southwards to Kisufim, and then enter Gaza once again.

      This past February, following several Kassam rocket attacks on Sderot, the IDF took over the Tancher Route, manning checkpoints at three spots and preventing terrorists from freely moving weapons and ammunition within the Gaza area. A similar measure was taken four separate times in 2002. At least nine Kassam rockets were fired towards Sderot and environs in the past eight days.

      The withdrawal represents the beginning of the implementation of the Road Map. The next steps include the expected IDF withdrawal of its meager forces from the Bethlehem area in the near future, as well as the release of imprisoned terrorists. Prime Minister Sharon has instructed the Shabak (General Security Service) to prepare a list of terrorists who can be released in the near future, such as those who have served long jail terms.

      Islamic Jihad and Hamas were joined in their cease-fire announcement of yesterday by most of the factions of Fatah. The latter agreed to join the "hudna" (temporary cease-fire) arrangement last night, promising to stop terrorism not for three months like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but for six months. Some Fatah elements, however, refused to go along. The PFLP terrorist group said it would not disturb the agreement, but that it is not a party to it.

      Last night, after the cease-fire announcement, three terrorist incidents were recorded in Gaza: a mortar shell was fired at Gush Katif, shots were fired at an IDF outpost near Rafiach, and an anti-tank missile was launched at an Israeli target near N'vei Dekalim. No one was hurt in these attacks.