Ait strike kills 4-member mortar crew; Sderot man wounded by Kassam

Olmert pledges to restore calm on the Gaza border, but stopps short of promising a military solution.

kassam remnants 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
kassam remnants 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Thirty trucks bearing humanitarian supplies including food and medicine will be permitted to enter the Gaza Strip on Monday via the Kerem Shalom crossing. The decision to allow the shipment was made during a late night consultation in the defense establishment. The transfer of fuel and other supplies will not be permitted due to continued rocket fire on the western Negev. Palestinians fired a Kassam rocket at Sderot on Sunday evening, lightly wounding one man and sending two people into shock. The man suffered shrapnel wounds to his head and hands. Seconds before the rocket landed, the Color Red rocket alert system sent residents fleeing for cover. Earlier on Sunday, two rockets landed in the Eshkol Regional Council near a kibbutz. Shortly after that attack, the air force launched an air strike on a Palestinian mortar launching crew in northern Gaza. Palestinian sources said four gunmen were killed in the air strike and six were wounded, adding that the crew belonged to the Salah a-Din Brigades of the Popular Resistance Committees. The ongoing rocket fire from Gaza came after a series of Israeli warnings to Hamas of firm military action if the South continued to be targeted. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledged to restore calm on the Gaza border Sunday, but stopped short of promising a military solution. At the start of the cabinet meeting earlier in the day, he accused Hamas of violating the cease-fire which had been in place since June. "The responsibility for breaking the calm and creating a situation of recurrent continuing violence in the South lays entirely with Hamas and the other terrorist organizations active in the Gaza Strip," he said. "Let no party come to the government of Israel and claim otherwise," he added. "It is our right to prevent further terrorism, threats and the breaking of the calm that is harming - first and foremost - the residents of the area. "We have acted, and we will continue to act, by every proper means in order to prevent a situation in which this 'calm' from working against the security of the residents of Israel," he said. He also said he had asked Defense Minister Ehud Barak and senior defense establishment officials for a plan to restore the quiet in the South. "I know that tempers are rising and various voices are being heard," he said. "My government has always acted, in such situations, with equanimity and sagacity in making its decisions and thus we will act now." But while Olmert's words at the start of the meeting were harsh, the cabinet did not debate a response to the Gaza violence. Instead the security cabinet is likely to do so on Wednesday. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni also addressed the issue of the Palestinian-launched rockets from Gaza at the start of her meeting with visiting Foreign Secretary David Miliband. "As we speak, Israeli citizens are being attacked by Hamas. Israel cannot sit idly by while its citizens are being attacked. When [Israel] is attacked, it must respond," she said, adding that Israel has a responsibility to protect its citizens. Livni said she expected the international community to support Israeli measures to protect its citizens and to do what ever it could to ensure that such terror is stopped. She accused Hamas of exploiting the situation in Gaza to gain international support. But it was Hamas, not Israel, she said, which, through its actions and attacks on Israel, was responsible for the suffering of the people in Gaza. When Israel is attacked, it must respond, she added. On Friday, five Grad-type Katyusha rockets were fired at Ashkelon, with three landing in the city. Sderot was targeted by a barrage of 10 Kassam rockets, and an elderly woman was lightly wounded. Barak, who has come under scathing criticism from the political Right over his handling of the faltering truce, will appear before the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday to explain his policies, MK Yuval Steinitz told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. Steinitz, who is chairman of the Knesset Subcommittee for Security Perception, said Barak had "no approach" for dealing with the rocket threat to Sderot and Ashkelon, and warned that the government's lackluster approach would lead to Ashdod and Tel Aviv coming under rocket fire in the coming months. Steinitz's comments came as Ashdod received some 250 public announcement systems designed to sound the Color Red rocket alert as part of that city's preparations for rocket attacks. Ashdod's residents will reportedly have 45 seconds to find cover after hearing the alert. "Barak doesn't know what he will do," Steinitz said, dismissing Barak's call to avoid hot-headedness and to weigh each step carefully. "That's not very original," Steinitz said. Steinitz said Barak needed to tell the government "what options we have," adding that Livni has so far not responded to a request to appear before the Defense Committee. "Israel will have to change things in Gaza in a fundamental way sooner or later - this is intolerable," Steinitz said. "If we don't stop this, within a year and a half Tel Aviv and Ashdod will be under missile threat." Steinitz said the IDF had to be ordered to attack Hamas's infrastructure in Gaza, and to reestablish control over the Philadelphi Corridor separating Gaza from the Sinai Peninsula. Dozens of tunnels have been dug under the route enabling Hamas to import an enormous amount of weapons and explosives. "We have to go in there and take over the Philadelphi Corridor to prevent the rise of 'Hizbullah 2,' which is threatening the heart of the Negev," Steinitz said.