After 13 days of tit-for-tat attacks, the five-month truce with Hamas in the Gaza Strip has been “shattered”, said Israel’s prime minister (photo).
On Sunday, Ehud Olmert told an Israeli cabinet meeting that he had ordered security chiefs to draw up plans in order to end rocket and mortar attacks on southern Israel, reported news agency AFP.
Mr Olmert made this remark shortly after an Israeli air attack in northern Gaza killed four Palestinian fighters from the Popular Resistance Committees.
The air raid had targeted Palestinian fighters who were preparing to launch rockets, said Israel. In the last two weeks scores of rockets have landed in the south of the country.
“The responsibility for the shattering of the calm and the creation of a situation of prolonged and repeated violence in the south of the country is entirely on Hamas and the other terror groups in Gaza”, Mr Olmert told Israeli ministers.
“There is no one who can criticise the Israeli government … we cannot tolerate this price tag that the terror organisations are trying to set against our right to prevent the continuing terror attacks and threats.”
Israeli prime minister also said that he asked the country’s security agencies to “present different action plans against the Hamas terror rule without its hampering our ability to use all necessary force in our response to violations of the calm”.
On Sunday, uninhabited areas of Israel have been hit by two rockets, without causing any casualties or damage, said an Israeli army spokesman.
“The ceasefire doesn’t seem to be anything more than a name at this stage”, said Jacky Rowland, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Jerusalem.
She added that the Israeli defence ministry had “made it clear if there are rocket attacks, they will attack the rocket launchers”.
Even though there were no plans as yet for a large-scale land incursion, the army would continue to attack fighters firing rockets into the country, said senior Israeli defence sources.
Yet, during a legal conference near Jerusalem, Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, said it was possible there could be a “need for a wide-scale operation” in the near future.
“Harsh words do not equal policy”, he said. “On the other hand, the military is prepared for a strong and painful operation.”
While Palestinian fighters have launched scores of rockets into southern Israel, the country has stepped up its blockade of the territory by keeping border crossings closed, which prevented the delivery of fuel and essential humanitarian supplies.
Since November 5, the blockade has almost continuously been enforced by the Israelis. They halted the supply of United Nations food and medical aid to 750 000 Palestinians and forced the territory’s sole power plant to shut down.
Peter Lerner, Israel’s liaison officer for the Palestinian territories, confirmed the border crossings remained closed on Sunday.
“Consultations on their eventual reopening will take place during the day”, he said.
Israel has been urged by international organisations and human rights groups to ease the blockade.
In a UN statement, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he “is deeply concerned at the deterioration of the humanitarian and security situation in Gaza and southern Israel. He calls on all parties to uphold international humanitarian and human rights law”.