(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Sunday placed the blame for continued rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel on Hamas, warning that Israel would respond to attacks leveled against its citizens.
Speaking to Army Radio, Liberman said of the more than 100 rockets fired into Israel since Friday, "There is no doubt that as far as we are concerned Hamas is the responsible party."
Hostilities began on Friday afternoon when the Israel Air Force bombed a car in Gaza
killing Zuhair Qaisi , the leader of the Popular Resistance Committees, and another top terrorist in the organization. The IDF said it decided to bomb Qaisi’s car due to intelligence that he was plotting a large terrorist attack along the border with Egypt, similar to the one the PRC carried out last August
that killed eight Israelis.
Liberman warned Sunday that despite the assassination of Zuhair, the terror attack which he had been planning could still be carried out. The IDF decided on Friday to close Route 12 – which runs along the border with Egypt – due to fears that the planned attack might still take place.
"I suggest that the leaders of terror organizations give the proper consideration to their actions and understand that despite our desire for restraint, we will respond," Liberman warned.
Palestinian officials said Sunday that 17 people had been killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza since hostilities began on Friday. They claimed that one of those killed was a 12-year-old civilian, while the remaining 16 were armed terrorists.
A Palestinian official speaking on condition of anonymity said Egypt had begun mediating a ceasefire on Sunday. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry had no comment.
Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon responded Sunday: "In the latest rounds of violence the Egyptians have naturally served as mediators. We are not negotiating with Hamas ... but deliver a clear message, if you don't shoot, we don't shoot, if you do shoot, you will pay a price."
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Saturday spoke with the heads
of the nine municipal and regional councils in the South coming under heavy rocket fire. He vowed to respond to continued rocket fire and told them Israel would strengthen protection of the home front through the deployment of more Iron Dome batteries, which he said proved their efficiency in the last couple days.
The Iron Dome has intercepted some 90 percent
of the rockets it has targeted, including a number of projectiles fired at the greater Ashdod area on Sunday morning.
Netanyahu was scheduled to convene the security cabinet on Sunday to discuss the ongoing violence in the South.Reuters contributed to this report.