Israel vows to continue Gaza strikes

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed on Wednesday to keep up military strikes on the Gaza Strip as long as rocket fire from the Hamas-ruled territory continues.

”The Israeli army operations against the Gaza Strip will continue as long as the rocket fire continues,” a senior official quoted the premier as telling a meeting of the powerful security Cabinet on the situation in Gaza.

A statement released by Olmert’s office after the meeting said that ”the Israeli government will act continuously, systematically and over a long period… to put and end to the rocket fire and other terror activities in Gaza”.

The decision came as moderate Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said he would resume peace talks with Israel — which he suspended in protest of Israel’s latest offensive in Gaza that has killed more than 125 people in a week — only after a ceasefire is reached both in Gaza and the West Bank.

It also coincided with United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visit to the region, where she urged the resumption of peace talks launched last November in the US following a seven-year hiatus.

The Israeli statement said that while Israel would work to contain Hamas, it would also advance the peace process with Abbas.

Government spokesperson Mark Regev insisted that the Hamas government in Gaza bore full responsibility for the latest escalation.

”Our forces are not operating because we want to, but because we have to. If they were not shooting at our civilian population we would not have to respond,” Regev said.

The body of a Palestinian killed in the clashes was found in the northern town of Jabaliya on Wednesday, medics said, bringing to 126 the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire in Gaza over the past week.

Two Israeli soldiers and one civilian have also died over the same period. — AFP



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