Olmert 'disappointed' by rocket fire

Two Kassams hit Sderot; army will continue operations in West Bank.

kassam crew 88 (photo credit: )
kassam crew 88
(photo credit: )
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Tuesday evening that "we are a little disappointed by the continuation of Kassam rocket fire at the South by the Palestinians." Speaking at a meeting with European Union envoys at the Finnish Embassy, Olmert added, "I hope very much that the Palestinians will honor their obligations and stop the fire." Mere hours after Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz sought to deflect responsibility for the cease-fire in the Gaza Strip Tuesday, terrorists violated the day-old cease-fire by firing two Kassam rockets at Sderot. Both rockets hit an open area without causing casualties.
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  • Echo Olmert's offer (editorial) "The IDF played only a partial role in the decision to reach a cease-fire agreement with the Palestinians," Halutz told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday morning. He said terrorists would attempt to exploit the truce and use it to rearm. In recent months, senior security establishment officials have argued against a cease-fire, saying it would only serve the Palestinian side. MKs on the panel said the army chief's statement could be interpreted as criticism of the political echelon. Halutz said the army would continue to operate in the West Bank despite the fact that Palestinians were "trying to equate" IDF operations there with those in the Gaza Strip. "It is important that the IDF maintains its freedom of maneuver in the West Bank," he said. Halutz emphasized there was no international body to receive complaints on violations in the Strip, as opposed to Lebanon, where it was possible to approach UNIFIL or the UN Security Council. Halutz acknowledged that he had not approached either of those organizations, and complained that Hizbullah had begun rearming in violation of the cease-fire agreement there. "Arms are still flowing to Hizbullah, and the embargo has not been properly implemented," he said, adding that the Lebanese army was cooperating with Hizbullah. At Tuesday's meeting, MK Dan Naveh (Likud) called the small role played by the IDF in the cease-fire decision worrisome, since there were concerns that Hamas was building up its supply of arms. The cease-fire "is the product of a prime minister who is bickering with the defense minister, who doesn't trust the chief of staff," he said. "This is no way to run a country." MK Silvan Shalom (Likud) was equally harsh in his criticism. "We are all dependant upon the goodwill of the other side," he said. "We are giving Hamas a break to rearm, and in the meantime, the prime minister delivers a speech to regain the support of the public and the media," he said. He said the cease-fire in Gaza did not make the country more secure, but just kept "Olmert's and Peretz's jobs safe." MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said that the cease-fire was a "glaring diplomatic and military failure." He said the defense establishment was treating the symptoms - Kassam rocket attacks - without dealing with the root of the problem, which was Hamas's weapons. MK Ran Cohen (Meretz) challenged Halutz and asked whether disagreements within the IDF might provide the Palestinian an excuse to violate the cease-fire. Earlier Tuesday, Defense Minister Amir Peretz reiterated that the cease-fire applied only to the Gaza Strip and not to Judea and Samaria. During a tour of the security barrier in the Jerusalem area, Peretz said Israel wanted to give the diplomatic process a chance, although there were extremist factions that wanted to "drag Israel into an escalation of the conflict." "We want to give it a chance so that the extremist factions will be restrained by those who abide by the cease-fire," he said, adding that if they continued to violate the truce, Israel would react firmly.