Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the IDF does not pay attention to empty calls for cease fires from various terrorist groups, in an interview on Monday with Army Radio. If they want a cease fire, Islamic Jihad and Hamas will need to actually stop their attacks, he explained. He added that Israel holds Hamas accountable for all rocket fire from Gaza.

The defense minister said the IDF is not interested in returning to Gaza. It will, however, respond accordingly to attacks against Israel's citizens.

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"There's no foundation for charges that we are getting drawn [into the fighting] and not initiating. The people who call to us to attack forcefully in the Strip will be the same people to criticize that we will get entangled there," he said.

Addressing the Iranian nuclear program, Barak said, "We have no reason to fear anything" as Israel is the strongest country in the Middle East. Still, Iran is a central threat to Israel and the international community and needs to be treated as such.


"Israel doesn't have to allow a nuclear Iran, the world doesn't have to allow a nuclear Iran," he insisted, saying that all all options for dealing with the Iranian threat should be on the table.


Also on Monday, Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i said he believes the current round of violence with the terror organizations in the Gaza Strip is coming to an end, in an interview with Israel Radio.

One Israeli was killed and dozens of rockets and mortar rounds were fired into Israel in recent days, leading to IAF strikes on the Strip targeting rocket launching squads and terrorist targets.

Vilna'i cautioned, however, that the situation could still deteriorate if the IDF identifies active rocket launching squads and targets them.


The IDF said overnight Sunday that its aircraft struck a rocket launching cell in Gaza after it fired a projectile into Israel. Two members of the cell were reported killed.

"We identified an accurate strike," an IDF spokesman told The Jerusalem Post.

The home front defense minister added that Hamas has no interest in an escalation at the moment, especially because the prisoner swap deal for Gilad Schalit is not yet complete.
Hamas, the ruling group in Gaza, has thus far not taken responsibility for the rocket attacks launched in recent days.

The IDF action came after three Kassam rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel landed in the Eshkol Regional Council area on Sunday close to midnight.

No injuries or damage were reported in the attacks.

The IDF approved a series of operations aimed at widening the scope of its responses to ongoing Islamic Jihad rocket attacks from Gaza on Sunday, as Egypt tried to mediate a second cease-fire after the first attempt at a truce lasted only several hours.

The planning for an intensified Israeli response, which was overseen by Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, took place in the command and control room of the IDF’s Southern Command in Beersheba, and in Tel Aviv.

As senior defense chiefs spent Sunday preparing for a further escalation, they treated reports of a new cease-fire with skepticism, after Gazans shattered a brief calm by attempting to fire a rocket into Israel around 3 p.m.

The terrorist cell that prepared the rocket for launch was struck successfully by an air force aircraft, thwarting the attack. The cell reportedly belonged to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. One terrorist was killed and another was seriously wounded.

Despite reports of a ceasefire, municipal officials in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Beersheba and Gan Yavne decided to take no chances and canceled classes at all schools in their districts.

With the exception of Ashkelon, Monday will be the second day in a row in which schoolchildren in the South will remain at home because of the security situation.

The decision was taken against the advice of the Home Front Command, which advised southern communities that schools could be reopened. It signaled the lack of faith local leaders placed in claims that the situation was heading toward calm.

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