Olmert promises new attacks against militants

It is not clear whether Israel will target Hamas political leaders

Hamas spurns truce

May 28, 2007|By Tracy Wilkinson | Tracy Wilkinson,Los Angeles Times

JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed yesterday to widen the fight against Hamas militants with fresh airstrikes after a Hamas rocket fired from the Gaza Strip killed an Israeli.

"No one involved in terror is immune," Olmert said at his government's weekly Cabinet meeting. "There will be no limit in acting against the terror groups and against those who are responsible for the terror."

It was not clear whether Olmert's comments meant that Israelis would target Hamas' political leaders, as it did during the Palestinian intifada.

For its part, Hamas rebuffed efforts by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to broker a cease-fire and said rocket attacks against Israel would continue.

For the past 12 days, Israel has been pressing a campaign of airstrikes and raids in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, killing at least 40 Palestinians, most of them militants. But the barrage of Hamas rockets fired from Gaza into Israel has not stopped, with more than 220 launched since May 15.

The Cabinet ministers did not discuss targeting Hamas' political leaders or launching a large-scale ground operation in Gaza, said a participant who spoke on the condition of anonymity according to civil service rules.

Olmert spokeswoman Miri Eisin would not say whether Hamas' top political leaders were now targets but said Israel would strike those involved in the attacks as well as anyone who smuggles weapons or money used for the attacks.

"If their leadership is directly involved in terror, their leadership is not immune," she said.

Oshri Oz, 35, was the second Israeli killed by the barrage in the past week. He died yesterday after a rocket slammed into the street alongside the car he was driving in the town of Sederot. Oz, a computer technician on a service call, died from shrapnel wounds to the neck.

Last night, two more rockets were fired into Sederot, one hitting a house and injuring a resident. Also yesterday night, Israel launched airstrikes on targets in northern and southern Gaza. No casualties were reported.

Sederot, in the western Negev Desert near the Gaza Strip, has received the brunt of the rocket attacks, terrifying residents who are demanding better protection from the government. Children in Sederot were evacuated yesterday to other towns farther from Gaza to attend school.

The sight of Israelis under attack put additional pressure on the beleaguered prime minister, already reeling from criticism of his handling of last summer's war with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The attack came a day after Hamas vowed revenge for Israeli airstrikes that killed five militants in Gaza. Hamas also warned that the air assault would jeopardize the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier captured in June.

The violence comes as Israel's Labor Party is to hold its leadership race today. The outcome could affect the stability of Olmert's government and the embattled prime minister's future.

Tracy Wilkinson writes for the Los Angeles Times. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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