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The Israelis and Palestinians are entering the fifth year of the conflict between them on a new wave of escalation - and this time, in the Gaza Strip. And the defense establishment's prophesies that Palestinian attacks will intensify the closer the Israeli disengagement gets have come true in recent days.

Political and security sources say there has been no change in the Palestinian modus operandi, but merely an accumulation of attacks that has forced Israel to mount a large-scale ground offensive in the northern Gaza Strip. And so the Israel Defense Forces has set out on a mission to push the Qassam rocket firers out of range of Sderot, just as it invaded Lebanon in 1982 "to push back the Katyusha rocket launchers."

The talk of "a buffer zone" and a prolonged IDF stay in the Strip are reminiscent of the security zone in Lebanon.

Sources in the Prime Minister's Bureau reject a connection between the current conflagration and Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan. The evacuation of the settlements is scheduled only for next summer, and the plan is moving ahead on the legislative and approvals path; the wave of terror attacks and responses will not delay it, or bring it forward.

The arguments are well known: On the one hand, the existence of the settlements in Gaza does not prevent the firing of the Qassam rockets. On the other hand, the ongoing launching of the rockets illustrates that Gaza is a threat to the Israeli home front, and not only to the settlers in the Strip.

In any event the disengagement is the background to the events and decisions. Sharon is in a bind: Israel is again seen to be talking about a pullout from Gaza, but is sinking deep into it in practice.

The firing of the Qassams has been frustrating and angering the prime minister for quite some time now and the IDF has yet to come up with a solution. It is unclear how it will uphold Sharon's directives - that the evacuation of the settlements does not take place under fire.

Creating a security zone to counter the Qassam rockets contradicts the intention to end the occupation in Gaza. And an overly belligerent Israel action will make it difficult for Egypt and international elements to support the disengagement.