IDF patrol Hebron298AP.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hours after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Knesset members that he hoped to give the cease-fire a chance to develop into a full-fledged peace process, Palestinian terrorists fired a Kassam from the Gaza Strip, marking the 16th time the cease-fire has been broken.
The Kassam landed within the Gaza Strip and no injuries were reported.
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"We have hope and we want to create a momentum that will bring about the political process instead of looking for excuses to violate the truce," Olmert said.
Later, the prime minister added that he was running out of patience with the ongoing rocket attacks, but did not specify the level of violence that would prompt an Israeli reaction.
Speaking before Olmert, an intelligence official told the committee that between 60 and 70 long-range rockets had been smuggled into the Gaza Strip since the disengagement. With a range of 20 km., the rockets are capable of reaching Ashkelon.
On Monday, The Jerusalem Post reported that intelligence officials were concerned over the smuggling of long-range rockets to Gaza.
Olmert acknowledged that Israel had difficulty stopping the firing of Kassam rockets through military means, prompting his office to pursue a cease-fire.
"The military campaign [in Gaza] did not stop the Kassams," he said. "We have to try ways that will stop them."
The prime minister also repeated the words of IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, who appeared before the committee last week, that a cease-fire in Gaza would not apply to the West Bank.
Olmert stressed that Israel must engage Syria in the fight against Kassam rocket attacks against southern Israel. Israel, Olmert asserted, must inform the Arab country that it would be required to take steps to ensure that Kassam attacks are at least significantly reduced, if not eliminated entirely.
"At this time we find direct negotiations with Syria impossible, but we must press them to stop delivering weapons," said Olmert. He added that Israel had no intention of confronting Syria directly. "Anyone in Syria who is concerned [about an Israeli offensive] can just calm down. Israel will not attack Syria, just as Israel did not attack Syria during the war in Lebanon."
Olmert's statements were slammed by a number of MKs, who called the prime minister's diplomacy "dangerous" to the State of Israel.
"The security officials presented their concerns over a cease-fire, but he, in his usual euphoria, is completely ignoring the security problems that are likely to be created," said MK Zvi Hendel (NU-NRP).
MKs Effi Eitam (NU/NRP) and Yuval Steinitz (Likud) added their criticism to Hendel's, saying Olmert's words proved that Hamas had blackmailed Israel into stopping its Gaza Strip operations before their objective had been achieved.
Eitam accused Olmert of "carrying out experiments with human beings," a reference to the residents of Kassam-riddled Sderot.
The prime minister replied by accusing Eitam of "sowing panic among the public."
Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu also criticized the prime minister's decision to establish a cease-fire.
"Hamas continues to fire rockets, and if it doesn't stop, there will be tragic outcomes which we have already witnessed," Netanyahu said.
Likud MKs Dan Naveh and Limor Livnat added to Netanyahu's complaint, calling on Olmert to resign.