Israel mulls tougher action against Gaza rockets
AFP - Monday, December 8
JERUSALEM (AFP) - - Israel threatened tougher action against rocket fire from the Gaza Strip on Sunday as the territory's sole power plant again shut down in the face of a crippling month-old blockade.
Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he had ordered security chiefs to draw up contingency plans for military action against militant groups in Gaza, although there have been no deaths as a result of the rocket and mortar fire of the past week.
"The State of Israel does not intend to show restraint over this, nor will it countenance such a situation," his office quoted him as telling the weekly cabinet meeting.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said the government should respond "militarily, economically and politically".
"The truce has not been respected by the other side," she said, referring to an Egypt-brokered ceasefire with the Islamist Hamas movement which controls Gaza that went into force on June 19.
"They are firing on our citizens. That is enough."
Israel kept its borders with Gaza closed on Sunday as a rocket and two mortar rounds were fired from the territory.
There were no casualties or damage from the attacks, an army spokesman said.
Israel has allowed food or fuel into the aid-dependent territory on only four days in as many weeks and a lack of diesel again forced the shutdown on Sunday of its sole power plant, electricity authority deputy director Kanaan Obeid told AFP.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum accused "the Zionist enemy of continuing its aggression against Gaza by systematically violating the terms of the truce".
"Discussions have taken place recently with the various parties about the truce but it seems difficult to agree an extension and Hamas is ready for all eventualities," he told AFP.
The truce expires on December 19.
Israel had been supposed to relax its blockade of Gaza as part of the deal. It argues that the persistent rocket fire has made that impossible but Hamas accuses it of failing to keep to its side of the bargain.
In a report published on Sunday, the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot calculated that at least 215 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip have hit Israel since November 4, when Defence Minister Ehud Barak ordered a tightening of the blockade.
The minister has previously said a large-scale military operation against Gaza is "inevitable" although he said on Sunday that any such action should be "carefully weighed" before being launched "at the right moment."
In a goodwill gesture to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, whose effective control extends only to the West Bank, an Israeli cabinet committee gave its approval to a list of 230 Palestinian prisoners to be freed this week.
The prime minister's office said that none of the 230 were implicated in deadly attacks against Israelis.
Israeli security forces, meanwhile, boarded a boat in the port of Jaffa to prevent a bid by Israeli Arab MPs to deliver aid to Gaza in defiance of the crippling blockade.
"We were preparing to set sail for the Gaza Strip to deliver hundreds of kilograms (pounds) of medicines and basic goods and the maritime police stopped us weighing anchor," said MP Ahmed Tibi.
"Israeli authorities allow the settlers to do what they want to the Palestinians in the West Bank but at the same time they stop us providing humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip. We remain determined to provide it," Tibi added.
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A left-wing protester waves a Palestinian flag at Jaffa port near Tel Aviv. Israel has threatened tougher action against rocket fire from the Gaza Strip as the territory's sole power plant again shut down in the face of a crippling month-old blockade.
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