Barak: If Hamas stops firing from Gaza, we'll stop firing

Defense minister says there's no "quick fix" to rocket fire; Ya'alon: war is last option, warns Hamas not to test us; PM says he won't allow Hamas to set rules of the game, response will be "harsh, determined, ongoing."

April 10, 2011 09:36
3 minute read.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak

Barak speech serious 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Charles Dharapak/Pool )


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Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Sunday that Jerusalem was willing to accept a mutual ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza after several days of projectile fire and IDF strikes that began after Hamas' armed wing fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli school bus on Thursday.

"If they stop firing on our communities, we will stop firing. If they stop firing in general, it will be quiet, it will be good," Barak told Israel Radio.

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Barak added that there is no "quick fix" for the problem of rocket and mortar fire from the Strip. Speaking about a possible IDF operation in Gaza, he said, "If necessary, we will act, but," he said, "restraint is also a form of strength."

The defense minister told Israel Radio that the success of the Iron Dome system brings an end to the debate over multi-layered rocket interception systems and that the only remaining issue is that of its cost.

Also on Sunday morning, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon expressed hope that Israel is not drawn into another war in the Gaza Strip but warned Hamas against testing Jerusalem's willingness to defend itself, in an interview on Army Radio.

Ya'alon, a former IDF chief of general-staff, said that military action is always the last option.

"I don't recommend that Hamas test us in the coming days," he warned. "They have taken some hard hits and they will sustain even harsher ones" if they continue firing rockets and mortars at Israel, he said.

"We have a lot of options," he added, "and the IDF is prepared for them."

The deputy prime minister, who also serves as minister of strategic affairs, addressed internal arguments and power struggles taking place between Hamas' military and political echelons, saying that it "doesn't interest us." If Hamas is in charge of the Gaza Strip, he said, "they they are responsible" for what happens there.

He added that since the days of former PLO chairman Yassir Arafat, Jerusalem's policy has been that in any territory it doesn't control, it demands responsibility from whoever is in power.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took a slightly harder line on Saturday, saying that Israel will not allow Hamas to set the rules of the game, during late night consultations regarding the escalating violence in the South.

Netanyahu said that raising the level of violence such that a tank missile is fired on a school bus, and thinking that this is just part of the ongoing status quo, was not acceptable and would not be tolerated.

“Even if we are not interested in an escalation,” he was quoted as saying, “the response will be determined, harsh and ongoing.”

In addition to holding security consultations, Netanyahu’s bureau held discussions with various international officials examining ways to dampen down the violence.

Netanyahu arrived in the country before Shabbat from a two-day trip to Germany and the Czech Republic. Earlier on Friday, following his meeting with Czech President Vaclav Klaus in Prague, the prime minister said: “The attack on a school bus crossed the line. Whoever tries to hurt and murder children will be held accountable.”

He is expected to address the issue further at Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting.

Reuters contributed to this report

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