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Israel on Tuesday pledged a harsh response for a Palestinian rocket attack that killed a woman
Israel on Tuesday pledged a harsh response for a Palestinian rocket attack that killed a woman in southern Israel, but Prime Minister Ehud Olmert acknowledged he does not have a quick solution for the nonstop rocket barrages launched from the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli threats — following a day of fighting in which five militants were killed in Israeli airstrikes — signaled there would be no halt in nearly a week of fighting.

Israeli defense officials said the army would step up its attacks on Palestinian militants, warning that Hamas’ top leaders, including Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, could be in danger.

“They are just terrorists in suits. This doesn’t exonerate him,” Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh told Israel Radio. “There is no one in the leading, commanding circle of Hamas who has immunity.”

Leaders of Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in Gaza already have taken a series of precautions to avoid Israeli attacks.

After a six-month lull, Israel resumed its airstrikes on militant targets in Gaza in response to nonstop rocket attacks. More than 40 Palestinians, most of them militants, have been killed.

Rockets rain down on Israeli town
But the Israeli attacks have been unable to halt the dozens of rockets falling on Sderot, a town of 24,000 residents less than one mile from Gaza.

Late Monday, a rocket hit a car, setting it on fire and killing a 31-year-old woman who was standing nearby, police said. Two other people were wounded. The woman was the first Israeli killed in a Qassam rocket attack since November.

After the attack, Olmert rushed to Sderot for the second time in a week to try to calm panicked residents.

Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida also pledged to “strike at the enemy anywhere in Palestine, whether with suicide attacks or operations against soldiers.” Since 2000, Hamas has carried out dozens of suicide bombing attacks in Israel, killing more than 250 people.

Early Tuesday, Israel imposed a closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, banning Palestinians from entering Israel, except for humanitarian cases. The military said the closure would be lifted Wednesday after a Jewish holiday, depending on the security situation.

“We will continue to invest and will continue to protect you, but you of course know that there is no immediate solution for the Qassams and there is no definitive solution,” Olmert told them, according to a statement from his office.

He pledged to speed up the process of reinforcing homes to protect against the rockets. “I understand your anger, frustration and hardship,” he said.

The salvo came during a meeting in Sderot between Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Javier Solana, the European union foreign policy chief. They were not harmed.

Angry Sderot residents demonstrated outside the building where Solana and Livni were meeting and later burned tires, charging that the Israeli government has failed to protect them.

At a news conference in Sderot, Solana denounced the violence, and Livni called for international action “to put pressure on the terrorists and the Palestinian government and not compromise with terror.”

The chairman of Israel’s influential Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Tzahi Hanegbi, told Army Radio that Israel would “act with great force against those who fire these rockets, against the commanders.”

On Tuesday, a senior Hamas official said that the group would consider talks on a cease-fire, if Israel first stopped its “mad attacks.”

“The aggression must stop so we can talk about a comprehensive cease-fire,” said Ahmed Youssef, an aide to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas. “The government is working on expanding the truce. This is a national interest.”

Bid to renew cease-fire?
Saeb Erekat, an aide to moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Abbas is making efforts to renew the cease-fire that greatly reduced Israel-Palestinian violence in Gaza from November until last week.

In a statement, Abbas denounced the Israeli attacks but said he would work to restore calm.

However, Israel dismissed talk of a new cease-fire, saying Hamas never sticks to them.

“Hamas ... is leading the violence,” Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Tuesday. “We don’t intend on stopping. We will stop at the point that the rockets stop.”

Hamas leaders keep low profile
Gaza militant groups declared a state of emergency Monday and instituted precautions. Leaders turned off their cell phones to avoid detection, limited movements and stayed out of official vehicles.

In 2004, at the height of Palestinian-Israeli violence, Israel killed the founder of Hamas, wheelchair-bound Sheik Ahmed Yassin, and his successor, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, in airstrikes just weeks apart.

Israeli officials have said that the assassinations frightened the Hamas leadership and caused a significant reduction in its attacks, especially suicide bombings. Now, however, Hamas is the dominant element in the Palestinian government, sweeping to power in a 2006 election.

Israeli airstrikes on Monday killed five militants, including four members of Islamic Jihad who had just fired rockets into Israel. The group promised “earthshaking” revenge.

Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida also pledged to “strike at the enemy anywhere in Palestine, whether with suicide attacks or operations against soldiers.” Since 2000, Hamas has carried out dozens of suicide bombing attacks in Israel, killing more than 250 people.

Early Tuesday, Israel imposed a closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, banning Palestinians from entering Israel, except for humanitarian cases. The military said the closure would be lifted Wednesday after a Jewish holiday, depending on the security situation.

Категория: Israel | Добавил: usa (22.05.2007)
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