June 21, 2004
By Gideon Alon, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon urged members of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem Sunday evening to contribute to the relocation of settlements to the Negev and Galilee.
The prime minister attended a rally on Mount Scopus marking 75 years to the founding of the Jewish Agency.
Earlier in the day, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon and Defense Ministry Director-General Amos Yaron indicated that reports about Defense Ministry plans to dig a moat along the Philadelphi corridor were premature.
Sharon told the cabinet Sunday that no ditch would be dug along the Gaza-Egypt border until Egypt was consulted on the issue.
Haaretz reported Friday that the ditch - or moat - would be four kilometers long, 15-25 meters deep and 100-120 meters wide. Senior officials said the ditch would be ready before the withdrawal from the Strip is completed by the end of 2005.
IDF sources told Haaretz last week that the plan is intended to effectively prevent further tunnel smuggling of arms by the Palestinians across the border from Egypt into the Gaza Strip.
But Ya'alon told the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday morning that neither he nor Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz had authorized that such a ditch be dug, Israel Radio reported.
Ya'alon said an initial tender was issued in order to receive specific price information in case Israel decides to carry out the project, according to the report.
Yaron was quoted as saying the security establishment was consulting with experts on the project, but that they had not yet decided on the best way to prevent weapons from being smuggled into Gaza.
Interior Minister Avraham Poraz (Shinui) told the cabinet Sunday that no ditch should be dug along the Philadelphi corridor at all, because Israel must withdraw from all of the Gaza Strip, including the Philadelphi route. Otherwise, Poraz warned, Gaza will become another Lebanon.
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