Israel Threatens War on Gaza and Iran

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by
The Telegraph/UK

Israel Threatens War on Gaza and Iran

Israel Braced Itself for Conflict on Two Fronts Against Militants in Gaza and an Iranian Government Persisting with Its Nuclear Programme.

by
Tim Butcher

Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, said the "pendulum is closer" to a large scale military operation in Gaza after another Israeli civilian was killed by a mortar fired from Gaza on Thursday.0607 04 1 2

Amnon Roseberg was the 8th Israeli civilian to be killed by weapons fired from Gaza since Israel withdrew its settlers from the Gaza Strip two years ago.

While the number of Palestinian civilians killed in Gaza by Israel in retaliatory strikes dwarfs Israeli casualties, Mr Olmert's government takes every Israeli civilian death very seriously.

When asked by reporters as he flew back to Israel after a three day visit to Washington about the chance of a negotiated ceasefire with Gaza's militants, Mr Olmert said he thought military action more likely than a ceasefire.

"We are always checking between the various possibilities of reaching complete quiet that will bring security to the residents of southern Israel without having to get into a violent and serious clash against the terror organizations in Gaza, and the impossibility of reaching such an arrangement, which is likely to bring us closer to an operation that would be a lot more serious and resolute against the terror organisations," he said.

"Based on the data as I see it now, this pendulum is closer to a decision for a serious operation."

Israel has tried large-scale military action in Gaza several times before to silence the rockets and mortars. While it sometimes creates a short-term lull, the inevitable loss of Palestinian civilian lives sparks yet more militant attacks.

But while the precedent is not encouraging, Mr Olmert cannot be seen by the Israeli people as doing nothing.

On the Iranian front, Mr Olmert privately pronounced himself happy after his visit to the White House that Israel and America are of one mind over the possibility of military intervention against Tehran's nuclear programme.

In President George W Bush, Israel has a firm ally who shares its belief that Iran must be stopped at all costs from becoming a nuclear power.

One of Mr Olmert's party deputies, Shaul Mofaz, kept up the pressure on Iran saying an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites looked "inevitable" given the apparent failure of diplomatic and economic sanctions on Tehran.

"If Iran continues with its programme for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack it," he said.

"The sanctions are ineffective. Attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable."

It was the most explicit threat yet against Iran from a member of the Olmert government, which, like the Bush administration, has preferred to hint at force as a last resort should UN Security Council sanctions be deemed to have failed.

Israel has twice acted by itself to stop its regional enemies developing a nuclear capability, in Syria last year and Iraq in the 1980s.

© 2008 The Telegraph

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