Barak: IDF allowed to expand Gaza ops

Former defense minister Amir Peretz urges direct negotiations with Hamas to end rocket fire.

hamas 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
hamas 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said during Sunday's cabinet meeting that he has authorized the IDF to expand its anti-terror operations in the Gaza Strip in light of continued rocket and mortar attacks on southern Israel. Last week, Barak told the ministers, 22 terror operatives had been killed in air and ground strikes. Turning to the issue of illegal outposts, Barak said his ministry was talking to the settlers in an attempt to solve the problem. However, the defense minister added, the government must take responsibility for implementing its decisions. Earlier, former National Security Advisor Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland and former defense minister Amir Peretz said that Israel should begin talking with Hamas in order to end the continued Kassam rocket fire from Gaza. "It is possible to come to an agreement with Hamas over ending the Kassam fire," Eiland said in an interview with Army Radio. "The agreement, or a prisoner exchange agreement between Israel and Hamas, from our point of view, definitely serves a very specific interest - and that is [captured soldier] Gilad Schalit." Echoing Eiland's sentiments, Peretz told Army Radio that he would jump at the chance to talk with Hamas. "Talking is never inappropriate," the former defense minister said. "If a Hamas man tells me that tomorrow I should meet him at the Erez Crossing, which is only a few minutes from Sderot, I would drive there to meet with him." The comments came just hours before another Kassam struck the western Negev. Nobody was wounded in the attack, and no damage was reported.