Israel's Livni warns of another Gaza offensive

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Wednesday warned that Israel would launch another military “operation” in Gaza if the alleged smuggling of arms from Iran to the territory’s Hamas rulers continues.

“Iran must be made aware that the weapon smuggling to Syria, Lebanon and Hamas constitutes a severe violation of international agreements, and must cease,” Livni said.

“If the weapons smuggling to Gaza continues Israel will have no other option than to initiate another defensive operation,” she said.

Israel launched its largest-ever offensive against Gaza on December 27, striking the Hamas-ruled territory from land, sea and air in a 22-day war that left more than 1 300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.

The fighting came to a halt on January 18 with Israel and Hamas declaring separate ceasefires that have since been strained by tit-for-tat Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli air strikes on the impoverished territory.

Israel has long accused its arch-rival Iran of supplying weapons to Hamas via hundreds of smuggling tunnels beneath the porous Gaza-Egypt border, charges Tehran has always denied.

One of Israel’s key conditions for ending the fighting was a complete halt to arms smuggling into Gaza, and in the past month its warplanes have repeatedly struck the border area in a bid to blow up tunnels.

On Wednesday the military said it had destroyed seven smuggling tunnels along the border with an aerial raid after Palestinian militants fired two rockets at southern Israel. No one was wounded or killed in either attack.—Sapa-AFP


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