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Diskin: Hamas could reach Beersheba
Shin Bet chief tells cabinet ministers Palestinian organization has improved its rocket launching capabilities, capable of firing rockets into additional southern cities. He stresses, however, that Hamas' political echelon seeks improved lull

Hamas' military wing is ready to continue its military conflict with Israel and its improved rockets are now capable of reaching Kiryat Gat, Ashdod and even the Beersheba vicinity, Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin told government ministers on Sunday morning.

 

He stressed, however, that in spite of its declarations, Hamas is interested in maintaining its truce with Israel.

 

A senior source in Jerusalem told Ynet on Sunday that Israel is preparing for a wide-scale Gaza operation, adding that the Jewish state has to work towards getting international legitimization for an operation in Gaza.

 

"(Israel's) actions depend only on the tactical conditions and the operational possibilities," said the source. "Israel will react with all due force to any provocation by Hamas."

 

According to Diskin, Hamas has ceased restraining the Palestinian factions in Gaza, and has simultaneously launched a wide-scale mortar shell offensive.

 

"Make no mistake, Hamas is interested in maintaining the truce. It seeks to improve its conditions – a removal of the blockade, receiving a commitment from Israel that it won't attack and extending the lull to the Judea and Samaria area.

 

"Hamas' political echelon is afraid of losing assets they have acquired over a long period of time in a military conflict with Israel."

 

Diskin added that "the deterioration and escalation in the Strip is carried out by a number of factions, as now there is basically not objective mediator between Israel and the Palestinians."

 

According to the Shin Bet chief, the Egyptians are sitting on the fence and there is no trust between them and Hamas. He clarified that Israel must not disregard the Egyptian mediation, as Cairo may remain an important player in the truce efforts.

 

Diskin told the ministers that Hamas' level of alert is very high and that the organization will respond when they see it fit. He said Hamas has officially announced the end of the truce, but has yet to decide on exerting all its force.

 

The Shin Bet chief also referred to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Strip and to the deepening rift between Hamas and its rival Fatah faction.

 

Ramon: We must bring down Hamas

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said during the meeting, "The current situation cannot be accepted. The IDF and defense establishment are preparing for everything this matter entails, but the place, way and decisions will be made in different forums.

 

"We need a weighed response in the face of the multiple voices calling for an operation in the government. Today there is better understanding among the international community for Israel's need to deal with Hamas.

 

"However, we must refer to accurate facts. We have no magical formula in which we grant them a blow, the calm returns and Hamas is dismantled. We must take into account that resuming the calm entails a wide-scale operation.

 

"Even if two or three divisions operate in the Gaza Strip, this doesn’t mean the rocket fire will stop. So ministers talking about an operation in the Gaza Strip are making irresponsible remarks. The logorrhea here has reached new highs.

 

"Do you think the Entebbe Operation or Six Day War could have been carried out with this level of logorrhea? It's true, a conflict in Gaza is near, but we must act out of restraint and stamina."

 

Vice Premier Haim Ramon said, "The lull has failed miserably. We did have three or four months of calm, but we are about to pay for them with compound interest. We must change the policy and make a strategic decision to end the Hamas rule."

 

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said she supported the lull in order to reach a short clam, which has proved that Hamas controls Gaza. Now, she added, any rocket fired must be retaliated.

 

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