The Hamas Government of the Gaza Strip will pay a “heavy price” for a barrage of rockets fired by Palestinian militants into the Jewish state, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak warned today.
“Hamas is responsible for the rocket fire and all other attempts to harm our soldiers and civilians, even when other groups participate. And it is Hamas that will pay the heavy price, a price that will be painful,” he said.
His statement came as tensions soared along Israel’s border with Gaza, with militants firing dozens of rockets, injuring four, and Israeli troops carrying out air strikes and shelling that killed six Palestinians.
The flare-up, which began on Saturday, as well as tough statements from Israeli officials, raised the spectre of a broader Israeli operation against Gaza, along the lines of its devastating Operation Cast Lead over the New Year of 2009.
“During the last two days, the IDF (Israel Defence Force), upon my instruction, has been evaluating the host of options for harsher responses against Hamas and the other terror organisations in Gaza,” Barak said.
“We will strike with an ever-growing intensity,” he added.
Earlier Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the Jewish state was “prepared to escalate” its response to the Gaza rocket fire.
“The army is acting and will act forcefully against the terror organisations in the Gaza Strip. They are receiving strong blows from the army,” Netanyahu told a meeting of his cabinet.
“The world must realise that Israel won’t sit by idly in the face of attempts to attack us. We are prepared to escalate our actions,” he said.
In December 2008, just six weeks before general elections, Israel launched a huge operation in Gaza against rocket fire.
The 22-day war killed 1,400 Palestinians — half of them civilians — and 13 Israelis, 10 of them soldiers.