Israel weighs response to rockets

Olmert vows to strike those behind the attacks as the military hits Hamas targets.

    Protesters from the town of Sderot demanded action against the Palestinian fighters firing rockets [AFP]

    Calls for Israel to step up its military operations against Gaza have mounted after an eight-year-old boy had to have a leg amputated after being hit by shrapnel from a rocket fired from Gaza that hit the southern town of Sderot on Saturday.

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    "Why don't they kill the Hamas leadership?" read a headline in the Yediot Aharonot, while the tabloid Maariv wrote that Saturday's attack "raises once again the dilemma regarding a large-scale ground operation in Gaza".

    Ever since Hamas took full control of Gaza almost eight months ago, calls have mounted in Israel for the army to launch a major offensive against the territory.


    Residents of Sderot accuse the government of neglecting them.


    Hostile reception


    Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, received a hostile reception when visiting Sderot on Sunday.


    One local shouted: "Go home. Why did you bother coming?"


    Hundreds of residents of the town travelled to Olmert's office in Jerusalem on Sunday, briefly blocking the main highway into the city.


    They protested, holding fragments of exploded rockets and criticised Olmert.

    "Enough, we want to live," read one of the placards held by the demonstrators.


    Olmert stood firm against launching a broad military operation in the Gaza Strip.


    "We cannot ignore the feelings and frustrations felt in Sderot and nearby communities, especially after yesterday's attack," Olmert said in the cabinet meeting.
    "The rage is understandable," he said. "But it should be clear that rage is not a work plan. We must act in an orderly and systematic way over a long period of time."

    Twelve Israelis have been killed by Palestinian rockets in the past six years.


    Gaza attacks

    Israeli officials said military attacks have killed 20 people in Gaza over the past week, all but one of them fighters.


    In the latest attack, a missile launched by a drone aircraft killed Mohammed Mutar, a commander from the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, a medical source said.

    Mohammed Mutar was killed by a missile
    launched from a drone aircraft [AFP]

    No one was injured in a second air raid against a Hamas position in Khan Yunis, the group said.


    An Israeli military spokesman confirmed the two raids and said Mutar was suspected of involvement in the "transfer of illicit arms" across the Gaza-Egypt border.

    Tzipi Livni, Israeli foreign minister, urged the international community to support Israel's action in Gaza.
    "It is part of our responsibility to take certain steps ... the  only way to stop it is in an understanding of Hamas that Israel will retaliate and that the international community supports Israel in doing so," she told reporters in her office.

    In addition to the military strikes, Israel has imposed a series of economic sanctions again Gaza, which it declared a "hostile entity" last September.

    A blockade of the territory has sparked fears of a humanitarian crisis as deliveries of fuel and food have been restricted.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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