amir peretz 298 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
If Palestinian terrorists continue to fire Kassam rockets, Israel might decide to escalate its operations against terror infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, including a possible massive incursion deep inside the Palestinian territory, Defense Minister Amir Peretz told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday in an exclusive interview.
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"We intend to stop the Kassams at any price," the defense minister said. "Hamas knows that they will pay a heavy price with every Kassam fired at Israel and if they don't stop them they know we will consider harsher and deeper operations into Gaza."
Peretz said the defense establishment hoped the current pressure being placed on the Palestinians would have the right effect and succeed in "bringing all of the [terror] organizations to the realization that they have to stop the rocket attacks."
A senior defense official said the IDF was considering reconquering the Gaza Strip, in the face of the massive terror buildup there. "There might be no other choice but to conquer the entire Gaza Strip to stop it from turning into a second Lebanon," the defense official said.
Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) Chief Yuval Diskin told the cabinet Wednesday that four tons of high-grade explosives had been smuggled into Gaza since August. From August 2005, when Israel left the border, to August 2006, some 15 tons of high-grade explosives were smuggled in. These explosives upgraded both the quality and range of the rockets, he said.
Diskin also said that although smuggling took place while Israel was in Gaza, it was nowhere near the current level. He also said that while the Palestinian Authority took some efforts to stop the smuggling a year ago, now - under Hamas - it was doing nothing to stop it.
In the interview with the Post, Peretz further called for immediate negotiations with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, following the expected creation of a Palestinian national-unity government.
"If the new government launders Hamas and terror, then there is no reason for negotiations," he said. "But if it allows Abbas to negotiate, with wide Palestinian support, we will have to consider it... There is no reason to occupy them for decades to come. We want to free ourselves of the territories packed with Palestinians," the defense minister said.
Turning to Iran, Peretz said the United States and the Europeans were not doing enough to stop the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. He called for tough sanctions to be immediately imposed on Iran.
"We need to demand from the world to be more decisive and firm against Iran," he said. "The feeling is that there is a regression in the free world's position against Iran and the feeling is that Iran is doing whatever it wants despite what the US and the UN are saying."
Herb Keinon contributed to the report.