PM: IDF must hit everyone involved in rocket fire

Islamic Jihad gunmen 298 (photo credit: )
Islamic Jihad gunmen 298
(photo credit: )
Following a barrage of Kassam rockets on Monday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned that Israel would not "live with the situation and carry on as usual." Olmert, at a press conference with visiting Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer on Monday, said the IDF and security services had standing orders "to destroy every rocket launcher and hit everyone who is involved in the rocket fire." While Islamic Jihad fired the rockets, they did benefit from logistical assistance from Hamas, Defense Ministry officials said, and the Islamist group was doing nothing to stop the attacks. Other government officials said Hamas's political wing opposed attacks at this time, while the organization's military wing wanted to see them continue. Olmert spoke with Defense Minister Ehud Barak in the morning, after the attacks, but did not convene any emergency consultations in the evening on the situation. The prime minister said the Palestinians had paid a heavy price for Kassam rocket fire in the past and they "will also pay a heavy price in the future." "We will not compromise on this issue and we will hit at those who operate these systems and the chain of command," he said. "We will not hesitate to get to everyone who threatens the citizens of the South, whoever it is, wherever they are." While Olmert was hinting broadly at targeting Islamic Jihad's leadership, defense officials said Monday's Kassam barrage on Sderot demonstrated the need for a large-scale operation inside the Gaza Strip to weaken Hamas and prevent future attacks. "It does not appear that the Palestinians will stop the rocket attacks on their own," one official said. "Therefore, it is probably only a matter of time before we will need to launch a large-scale operation." OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant has for several months been calling for a large operation in Gaza and has warned that if such an incursion was not carried out in the coming year, the IDF might lose its "window of opportunity" in defeating Hamas in Gaza. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, meanwhile, advocated a different approach. "One cannot accept a situation where Sderot children are living under threat while those in Gaza continue with their daily routine," she said at a press conference with visiting EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. "We must use additional means apart from military ones, to make clear to Gaza residents that their way of life is dependent on Israel," she said. In recent days, Livni has reportedly advocated measures such as temporarily cutting off electricity to the Strip as a way of bringing down the number of attacks. Solana, meanwhile, condemned the attacks and expressed "solidarity" with Sderot. Asked at a press conference with Livni about EU support for operations in Gaza to stop the rockets, Solana said, "Israel has our solidarity in fighting terrorism. Sometimes we do not agree 100 percent on exactly how to combat it, but we offer our full solidarity with Israel in its efforts to fight terrorism." Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.