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Last Updated: Monday, 26 September 2005, 00:37 GMT 01:37 UK
Grim reminder for Gaza's people
By Lucy Williamson
BBC News, Jerusalem

Khan Younis after Israeli air strike
Gaza residents have had to deal with ruins from air strikes
The beginning of each day in Gaza is beginning to feel familiar. As in the days before Israel's withdrawal, the aftermath of last night's air-strikes becomes clear with the sunrise.

The latest targets are buildings Israel said were being used to store weapons. And a school in Gaza City it said was a base for the militant group, Hamas.

And old fears are also beginning to surface in the Israeli town of Sderot, close to Gaza's border.

Since Friday, dozens of rockets fired by Palestinian militants have landed here.

Israel completed its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip less than two weeks ago. Many Israelis had hoped that, with Israel's settlers and soldiers gone, attacks from Gaza might stop.

Now Israel says it simply won't allow these kinds of attacks to happen - and that air-strikes are the only way to stop them.

Ground forces readied

The Palestinian Authority has accused Israel of killing any chance of reviving the peace process, and says that its actions will lead to an escalation of the violence.

But the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said while the rocket attacks continue, so will Israel's campaign.

Up until now, that campaign has meant air-strikes, closures and widespread arrests.

Israeli mobile artillery piece near the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday evening
Unconfirmed reports say ground operations may also be launched

But troops and artillery have been put into position around Gaza's borders. Sending them in is likely to be a last option, but Israeli officials say a ground operation hasn't been ruled out.

The violence in Gaza is putting pressure on the Israeli prime minister at home.

Mr Sharon had promised that his so-called Disengagement Plan would bring Israel greater security. A return to the old battles with Palestinian militants so soon after withdrawal will make it difficult for the prime minister to win over his opponents.

Many of those opponents came from Mr Sharon's own party. And he needs all the support he can get right now.

He is facing a leadership challenge from his old rival, the former Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.

It's likely to be a close-run race. And Mr Sharon could find that a return to the past in Gaza means an uncertain future at home.


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