Israeli Forces Continue Six-Day Offensive in Gaza
At least seven Palestinians, including one teenager, died in Monday’s attacks, according to Army and local officials.
Israel began its attack on Wednesday after two young children died after rockets fired from Gaza landed in an Israeli town. Three other Israelis have died in the raids.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon vowed to Israel Radio listeners on Sunday that he would stop the rocket fire on towns in Israel and Jewish settlements in Gaza. Currently, Israel has cleared out a five-mile strip of northern Gaza in order to keep its cities and towns out of rocket range.
“The current situation cannot continue,” Sharon said. “We have to expand… the areas of operation in order to get the rocket launchers out of the range of Israeli towns.”
Israeli officials said the raid is thwarting rocket fire, but the Hamas militant group fired two Qassam-style rockets early Monday, wounding one person, the Associated Press reported.
“It will take time until we can be sure that we remove the threat of the Qassam rockets,” Israel Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said to the AP.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia denounced the Israeli raid and called on the international community to respond to the violence.
“This ugly Israeli crime is taking place in full view of the world, and so far, we have not heard a strong word from the world community that can bring an end to this aggression,” Queria said.
Mofaz said Israel was trying to minimize civilian casualties.
“The Palestinian terror organizations are doing tremendous efforts to murder and to kill Israeli innocent people, babies, children, women, and we are targeting only the terrorists and the terror organizations,” Mofaz said.
Palestinian lawmakers released a statement Sunday implying that the militants should halt their rocket fire.
“The Palestinian Legislative Council, while asserting our people’s right to resist Israel’s ugly occupation, call on all factions to put this resistance in a strategic frame that is consistent with the Palestinian higher interests,” the legislators said in the statement.
Israeli Army officials said their operations could last weeks. Israeli government officials have said they worry the rocket fire will hinder efforts to evacuate Gaza next year. Critics of that plan say that if Israel pulls out of Gaza, the rocket attacks would increase.
Sharon’s Likud Party is critical of the Gaza pullout, voting against the plan twice and supporting expansion of settlements, outlawed by international law, rather that abandonment. The Likud Party has not supported Sharon’s contention that Israel can strengthen its defenses and focus on securing the West Bank if Israeli settlements and outposts are removed from Gaza.