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Gaza forces deployed at border to prevent illegal crossing

Dec. 24, 2014 7:34 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 27, 2014 1:37 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Ministry of the Interior in the Gaza Strip is deploying security forces on the border with Israel and intensifying its presence in the area in order to prevent Palestinians from crossing into Israel from Gaza without documents.

The statement from the interior ministry comes just hours after a gunfight erupted on the border with Israeli soldiers, after the Israeli military said a soldier was wounded by sniper fire from inside Gaza.

Ministry spokesman Iyad al-Buzm, however, did not directly mention the incident, instead stressing that the deployment was about preventing Palestinians from crossing into Israel.

"There are a few cases where young people try to sneak into the '48 lands (i.e Israel), but Palestinian security forces have arrested some this year and Israeli forces arrested those who successfully entered," al-Buzm said.

"We are looking carefully at the issue in order to stop the Israeli side from recruiting collaborators," he added.

Al-Buzm said that Gaza security forces had been working on the issue for the last two months.

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, 94 Palestinians have crossed into Israel without documents since the beginning of the Gaza offensive in July, including 10 during the conflict and 66 since September alone.

Al-Buzm said that part of the problem was the fact that there are border areas where Palestinian security forces cannot operate, allowing individuals -- who he said were primarily youths -- to cross over.

"We still have some procedures to carry out in order to completely stop infiltration. Those who are caught will be punished appropriately," he added.

Israel also maintains a security "buffer zone" that extends between 500 and 1500 meters into the Strip, effectively extending control over 17 percent of Gaza's total land area and 35 percent of its agricultural land.

This control, which directly affects the livelihoods of more than 100,000 Gazans, also prevents security forces from operating near the border, as they are similarly forbidden from entering the area.

Al-Buzm called on the unity government to fully carry out its duties in Gaza, adding that the security situation in Gaza is stable despite the difficult circumstances, including a lack of salaries and contact with the unity government's ministry of the interior.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Israeli military launched an attack on Khuzaa and al-Qarara east of Khan Younis, killing Taysir al-Smeiri, 33, and injuring two others.

The limited offensive came after they said an Israeli soldier was seriously injured after being hit by sniper fire while he was patrolling on the Israeli side of the border.
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