'We'll step up measures on Gaza'

After talks in Turkey, Barak also says country can have "a positive role" in the Middle East.

Cool Barak in turkey 224 (photo credit: AP)
Cool Barak in turkey 224
(photo credit: AP)
Israel will take further military measures to respond to attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Tuesday. "We will be forced to strengthen our military efforts," Barak said during a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Vecdi Gonul. Turkey's Islamic-rooted government has long offered to help mediate peace between Israel and Palestinians and is also reportedly serving as a go-between for Israel and Syria. Asked to comment on the reported Turkish mediation, Barak said "These are not issues that we are talking about in detail and for sure, we will not report on them." "Turkey has good relations with all countries in the region. If Turkey can contribute to a decrease of the risk, it will have a positive role in the region," Barak said. Both countries have good defense relations and Gonul thanked the visiting minister for his country's support in fighting Kurdish rebels by providing Israeli-made Heron unmanned aircraft used to gather intelligence about rebel hideouts in neighboring northern Iraq. "Along with the information provided by the United States, Israel's unmanned air vehicles have been extremely helpful," Gonul said. Turkey is planning to buy 10 Heron aircraft from Israel and has leased three recently to use in an aerial bombing campaign against the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in northern Iraq. A $190 million deal for the Herons was signed several years ago, but a malfunction in a camera system manufactured for the drones by a Turkish subcontractor has held up delivery. Gonul said technical teams were separately discussing Turkey's interest in procuring an Israeli spy satellite worth $300 million. Barak was scheduled to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan later Tuesday. The defense minister will meet Turkish President Abdullah Gul and chief of staff Gen. Yasar Buyukanit on Wednesday. Earlier Tuesday, after landing in Turkey, Barak said that Israel would "not hesitate to carry out any operation that could lead to a reduction in Kassam fire." However, there were reasons, he claimed, why Israel was not committing to a large-scale operation in the Gaza Strip. "The entire military and political leadership in Israel is dealing with the matter, but we must act with responsibility over time," Barak said. Referring to the possibility of targeting the Hamas political echelon, the defense minister said: "It would be irresponsible to give names and targets." Barak criticized elements in Israel for forewarning Hamas leaders by providing names of possible targets. When the time came, Barak said, those targets had already gone into hiding and were simply not to be found. Yaakov Katz contributed to this report