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(photo credit: AP)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned Thursday there were no "quick-fix" solutions to completely shut down the Kassam rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.
Speaking to reporters on his way back from Los Angeles to Israel, Olmert said that while there were many ideas about how to deal with the rocket fire, "there is not one thing you can do and the Kassam attacks will stop."
He added that even Operation Defensive Shield, launched after the worst month of Palestinian terrorism in March 2002, did not put an end to all terrorism from Judea and Samaria.
Olmert's comments came a day after he said that Israel's military actions in Gaza would continue, following Wednesday's fatal Kassam barrage on Sderot that killed one woman and seriously injured two others.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz ordered security chiefs on Thursday to begin preparing new and innovative operational plans for action against Gaza-based Kassam rocket infrastructure.
"We are continuing our policy of pressure on the South," Peretz said during a meeting with Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, adding that he expected internal changes within the Palestinian Authority that would bring to power and reinforce moderate elements capable of preventing the rocket attacks.
"If this doesn't happen," Peretz warned, "Israel will deal a painful and heavy blow to the terrorists."
Peretz ordered the IDF Home Front Command to speed up the construction of reinforced roofs for schools and public institutions. The Defense Minister specifically ordered the IDF to reinforce the Sderot welfare center which provides assistance to residents suffering from shock following Kassam attacks.
Olmert said he viewed the continued attacks on Sderot very gravely. "We have been taking action for a long period of time. Since June 360 terrorists have been killed in our actions against terror. There is no doubt that the attacks yesterday in Sderot and Ashkelon were difficult. Our activities will continue and correspond to the information we have and on the circumstances."
Olmert said that the Palestinian security apparatus could stop the rocket attacks if they had the will, and that he expected more determined action from Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
Regarding the smuggling of arms from Egypt into Gaza, Olmert said that Israel was "doing a great deal on this," although it was "not always successful." He said the Egyptians were also taking action, "but not always as effective as needed," and that ways were being discussed about how to upgrade the anti-smuggling operations.
Olmert said that he and US President George Bush see eye to eye on the key issues regarding Iran and the Palestinians, and would not reveal details of his 45-minute private discussion with the President.
One possibility that the defense establishment is considering is allowing the Palestinian Bader Brigade, located in Jordan, to enter the Gaza Strip and reinforce PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Presidential Guard. If the Bader Brigade is allowed into Gaza, the Palestinians have said that they would deploy the well-trained soldiers in the northern Gaza in an effort to curb the rocket fire.
Pre-dawn Thursday, the IDF retaliated to a Kassam rocket barrage on Wednesday, in which one person was killed and two others were injured seriously, and carried out air strikes against terror targets in the Gaza Strip.
IAF aircraft bombed a building in Gaza City which the IDF said was being used as a weapons storehouse. The occupants were given warning by telephone prior to the strike, and there were no reports of wounded.
Approximately an hour later, two Palestinians were reported wounded when the IAF struck two Hamas-owned structures in the Jabalya refugee camp. As in the Gaza City strike, the army alerted the occupants of the impending action, and warned them to leave the premises. The army said that one of the buildings was used as a weapons storehouse, while the second functioned as a headquarters for planning terror attacks against Israeli targets.
Olmert, who caused a media stir on Monday when he did not forcefully come out in support of embattled Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen Dan Halutz, left no doubt on Thursday, saying that Halutz "can and needs to remain in his post."
"If I thought he had to resign, I would have acted," he said.