Israel has warned that it could launch a
fresh military assault on the Gaza Strip if Hamas does not stop rocket
and mortar attacks from its territory.
The threat on Friday came
just hours after a series of air raids across Gaza, which Israel said
were in response to rocket fire the previous day, injured at least three
The Israeli military has said that almost 20
rockets have been fired into Israel in the past month, including one
that killed a Thai farm worker.
"If this rocket fire against
Israel does not stop, it seems we will have to raise the level of our
activity and step up our actions against Hamas," Silvan Shalom, Israel's
deputy prime minister, told public radio on Friday.
"We won't allow frightened children to again be
raised in bomb shelters and so, in the end, it will force us to launch
another military operation.
"I hope we can avoid it, but it is one of the options we have, and if
we don't have a choice, we will use it in the near future."
About 1,400 Palestinians were killed when Israel launched its last
offensive on the Gaza Strip in December 2008.
Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians also died over the 22-day
period of the assault.
"Twenty rockets in the space of one month
might not sound a huge amount compared to the intensive rocket fire
preceeding and during the Gaza war of just over a year ago," Al
Jazeera's Jacky Rowland, reporting from Jerusalem, said.
in comparison to recent months it did mark an escalation."
was no claim of responsibility for Thursday's lone rocket, which caused
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The Israeli military said Friday's air raids had targeted weapons
manufacturing and storage facilities in the central Gaza Strip, in Gaza
City in the north and the southern part of the Palestinian enclave, all
in response to rockets fired from the territory.
"The IDF [Israeli military] will not tolerate any attempt to harm the
citizens of the State of Israel and will continue to operate firmly
against anyone who uses terror against it," the Israeli army said in a
"The IDF holds Hamas as solely responsible for
maintaining peace and quiet in the Gaza Strip."
But witnesses and Hamas officials said that Israeli missiles hit two
caravans near the town of Khan Younis and a cheese factory, while
helicopters attacked a metal foundry in the Nusseirat refugee camp.
children injured in the air raids were hit by flying glass, Palestinian
Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, told Al Jazeera
that Hamas held the Israeli government led by Binyamin Netanyahu
responsible for the "escalation", but said air raids had been expected
because of threats by Ehud Barak, the defence minister, and other
He also blamed "the international community and the Arabs" for
failing "to do anything about the situation in Gaza".
"The absence of the international community and the Arabs has allowed
the Israelis to escalate the situation," he said.
been increasing tensions between Palestinians and Israeli security
forces in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem in
On Tuesday, a Palestinian teenager was killed and
several others wounded as Israeli troops fired on protesters near the
border between Gaza and Israel and last weekend two Israeli soldiers and
two Palestinian fighters died during clashes.
Clashes have also
broken out in the West Bank and Jerusalem over Israeli settlement plans,
the reconsecration of a synagogue in East Jerusalem and other issues.