Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised a harsh response Wednesday to the barrage of Qassam rockets that has hit the Negev city of Sderot over the past day. At a security consultation held in his office, he instructed the IDF to target the Hamas terror network in the Gaza Strip and to go after the cells launching Qassam rockets.
He said Israel could not continue its policy of restraint after over 30 Qassam rockets hit Sderot, injuring three residents, including a 70-year-old woman.
Late Wednesday night the rockets continued to fall, striking a private house in Sderot and starting a fire in the city's industrial zone.
Hamas meanwhile, announced an immediate ceasefire in its battle with Fatah in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday night. Senior Hamas official Khalil al-Haya said the ceasefire would go into effect by 8:30 p.m.
At the security consultation, Olmert said that he objected to a mass evacuation of Sderot, criticizing billionaire Arcady Gaydamak's funding of buses to transport residents out of the city.
"Those are the images Hamas is waiting for and I am not prepared to award terror with victory," he explained.
Gaza violence going strong
The violence in Gaza does not seem close to a resolution. The declaration of a ceasefire arrived shortly after Hamas special security forces announced that they would join in the interfactional fighting in order to "change the balance (of power) in the field."
Such a statement indicates a potential for bloodier conflict since prior to this, Hamas' military wing – Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades – had borne the brunt of the latest conflict in the Gaza Strip.
Witnesses reported that Hamas fighters from the force attacked roadblocks and buildings under the control of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, confirming the force's announcement that they intended to increase deployment and attack Fatah-affiliated assets.
At least 14 Palestinians were killed on Wednesday in clashes between the rival factions in Gaza, with 14 others killed the day before.