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Olmert: Gaza peacekeepers an option

Ehud Olmert called for Western nations to consider sending peacekeepers to the Gaza Strip. As factional fighting between Hamas and Fatah raged in Gaza on Tuesday, the Israeli prime minister made his first public call for a peacekeeping force in the territory, citing the success of a similar deployment in southern Lebanon after last year’s war. “If the Gaza Strip ultimately falls into the hands of Hamas, it will have a regional significance,” Olmert’s office quoted him as telling visiting Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen. “We cannot go into the Gaza Strip to fight the war of the pragmatic Palestinians against the extremist forces.” According to Olmert’s office, he then told Verhagen that “serious consideration should be given to the insertion of an international force akin to UNIFIL in the Philadelphi corridor in order to prevent the extremist forces from gaining strength.” The Philadelphi corrider is Israel’s term for Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, which sees frequent arms smuggling by Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups. Israel until now has rejected the idea of peacekeepers in the West Bank and Gaza, saying they could serve as shields for Palestinian aggression.