Is ceasefire about to be officially over? More and more ministers have called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
to consider ending the restraint policy in light of the ongoing Qassam fire from the Gaza Strip, which constitutes a violation of the ceasefire
declared about a month ago.
Ten Qassam rockets have been fired at Israel
in the past 24 hours, and it appears government ministers are starting to lose their patience.
In a meeting held Thursday morning between Defense Minister Amir Peretz
and Prime Minister Olmert, Peretz said that Israel's policy regarding the Qassam fire must be reexamined.
He noted that the current policy only strengthens the extreme elements which are not part of the ceasefire and claimed that "we cannot gamble with the security of Israel's citizens."
Fragile ceasefire (Photo: Tsafrir Abayov)
In internal discussions, Peretz said that the current situation was creating a kind of immunity to the Qassam launchers as the Israel Defense Forces is not firing at the cells before or after they fire the rockets.
The defense minister is expected to hold a consultation Thursday afternoon, focusing on the Palestinian arena, where a recommendation to try and change the situation is expected.
National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer also said that the restraint policy must end.
"In the past I fully supported the restraint, but the daily reality in which rockets are fired at Israeli communities cannot go on. Israel is committed to its citizens' safety. We must inform the Palestinians and the world that Israel's restraint time is up. Israel will operate against anyone threatening the security of its citizens.
Deputy Prime Minister and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eliyahu Yishai, on his way to tour Gaza vicinity communities, said that "the restraint policy must not be sanctified. The so-called unusual firing incidents have become systematic and are harming the ceasefire. The cabinet must hold an urgent meeting and decide where the restraint over Qassam fire must stop."
Following seven rockets fired at Israel on Wednesday, another three rockets were launched
Thursday morning. Two of them landed on Palestinian soil and one landed on Israeli territory.
The Sderot Municipality reported that the Color Red alert system identified the launching of a rocket at the western Negev at around 6:20 a.m. The landing site has yet to be located, but the rocket apparently landed in an open area outside the southern town.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned,
during a meeting with his Norwegian counterpart Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday, that Israel's restraint to ongoing violations of the ceasefire in the form of rocket attacks at southern Israeli cities would soon end.
A senior Israel Defense Forces official, talking to Ynet, warned that “Israel’s policy toward the incessant Qassam rocket fire may be interpreted as a sign of weakness.”
Hanan Greenberg contributed to the report