Israel is "ready" to expand its operations over the Gaza strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told his Cabinet. He also said that the West Bank's Fatah was now responsible for controlling rocket fire out of Gaza.
Israeli aircraft attacked at least six militant targets on Sunday, hours after rockets fired from the Gaza Strip set a paint factory on fire. Palestinian officials said that two people were wounded in the airstrikes, part of increased activity from both the Israeli and Palestinian side in recent weeks.
"Over the weekend, the Israel Defense Forces attacked multiple targets in response to firing at Israel from the Gaza Strip," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the cabinet in his weekly briefing. "We are ready to expand this operation, if necessary."
Israel's military said it had targeted only "terror activity" sites, including concealed rocket launchers, weapons manufacturing sites and alleged training grounds for militants.
Netanyahu told his colleagues on Sunday that the prevention of rocket attacks out of Gaza was now an issue for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank.
"I would like to reiterate that from the moment the Palestinian unity government was established with the Hamas terrorist organization, the Palestinian Authority became responsible for preventing firing at our territory from the Gaza Strip," the prime minister said.
The Islamist Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip and President Abbas' moderate Fatah in the West Bank formed a unity government in April. Shortly thereafter, direct peace negotiations between the Israeli government and Abbas' Palestinian Authority came to a halt.
Ahead of its move to seek reconciliation with Hamas and greater recognition at the United Nations, Abbas' government had become dissatisfied with continued Israeli settlement building on territory Palestinians claim and the failure to release a final batch of Palestinian prisoners.
Lieberman advocates Gaza reoccupation
Netanyahu's hawkish foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, told army radio ahead of Sunday's cabinet meeting that he would prefer more drastic measures against militants in the Gaza Strip.
"We have seen that, at the end of the day, limited operations only strengthen Hamas so the alternative is clear," he said. "Either with each round we attack terror infrastructure and they shoot, or we go to full occupation."
Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 but still controls air, land and sea access to the coastal enclave. The Israeli military has said that since the beginning of June, 60 rockets have been launched from Gaza towards Israeli territory, with 28 of them hitting it. The makeshift devices rarely wound anyone but can cause damage and panic. The rocket which struck a paint factory in the town of Sderot on Saturday caused an explosion and fire, injuring three people.
In the West Bank, meanwhile, Israeli officials continued their search for three teenagers who went missing on June 12. Some 400 people, most of them Hamas members, have been arrested in total as part of the search. Five Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank operation, dubbed "Brother's Keeper." Israel at the weekend published the names of two Hamas members it holds responsible for abducting the boys.
No group has officially claimed responsibility for the supposed abduction, nor has there been any public indication of their whereabouts or well-being.
msh/kms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)