Middle East

Israel vows tough action on Gaza if truce fails

The sister of Osama Ali, who was killed in an Israeli strike, grieves during his funeral in Gaza City.

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israeli troops had responded “forcefully” to rocket fire from Gaza and could step up their response if a fragile truce failed to hold.

“Regarding the situation in the south, the Israeli army acted forcefully against those who try to attack us and, if necessary, the army will act more forcefully still,” the Israeli prime minister warned at the start of a Cabinet meeting.

“Our policy is to use force to restore security and calm to the residents of the south,” he added.

Netanyahu spoke as a fragile second attempt at a truce between Israel and armed groups in Gaza wobbled, with the Israeli military saying three rockets fired from the Palestinian territory landed in the southern Eshkol region.

The rockets caused no damage or injuries, a military spokeswoman told AFP, but they threatened the prospects for the cease-fire that began at midnight Saturday.

A previous truce, announced Wednesday, had begun to unravel with Gaza rulers Hamas threatening to call it off altogether, as Palestinian officials said three people were killed and dozens wounded in seven Israeli airstrikes Saturday.

An army spokeswoman said that by Saturday evening 28 rockets had slammed into southern Israel that day and Friday, with another 10 brought down by Israel’s air defense system.

The current round of Israeli attacks and Palestinian retaliation began with airstrikes on June 18, just hours after gunmen from Sinai carried out an ambush along Israel’s southern border with Egypt, killing an Israeli civilian.

Israel has said its sudden spike in Gaza operations was “in no way related” to the Sinai border incident, with the military saying the air force was targeting militants poised to attack the Jewish state.

Since last Monday, 15 Palestinian citizens have been killed and several dozen others have been wounded, most of them militants, in multiple Israeli airstrikes.

At least 152 rockets and mortar rounds have been fired into Israel from Gaza, wounding five Israelis including four border policemen.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 25, 2012, on page 8.




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