Egypt warns Hamas to cease rocket fire on Israel

"The Gaza situation is similar to that before December 2008," sources say Cairo told Strip's leadership; could bring new Israeli attack.

January 12, 2011 16:00
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Egypt warned Hamas that continued rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel could prompt an Israeli war on the Strip meant to root out the source of the attacks, Reuters quoted a source familiar with the situation as saying on Wednesday.

"Egypt has told Hamas the Gaza situation was similar to that before December 2008," the source said hinting that a second Operation Cast Lead may be in the offing if attacks on Israel's Negev communities continue.

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"Hamas does not want a new escalation unless it is forced into it," the source said.

On Sunday, Hamas said that it was in contact with other groups in the Gaza Strip to reduce the recent attacks in the area so as to avoid another war with Israel, apparently as a result of Egypt's warnings.

Ayman Taha, a Hamas official, said that his movement did not want to give Israel an excuse to “wage a new war against the Gaza Strip.”

He warned, however, that Hamas reserved the right to “respond to Israeli crimes, but only within the frame of national consensus.”

Palestinians interpreted his remarks as a sign that Hamas does not believe that any group has the right to independently initiate a confrontation with Israel.

Mortar and rocket fire from Gaza have increased recently, with some 20 attacks directed at southern Israel since the beginning of 2011.

The IDF has responded to the attacks with air strikes targeting the terror infrastructure in Gaza. Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned Tuesday that the rocket fire would not be tolerated.

"I want to tell the other side – Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees – that I recommend they don’t test us,” Barak said during a meeting with soldiers from the Paratrooper’s Brigade stationed along the Gaza border. “If the rocket fire against us continues there will be more attacks on the other side as well.”

Khaled Abu Toahmeh contributed to this report.

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