Barak - Willing to pay 'hefty' price for Shalit
Photo: Ido Erez
Smuggling tunnels leading into Rafah
Photo: Reuters
IAF strikes targets in Gaza
Palestinian sources report Israeli aircraft targeted smuggling tunnels in southern Gaza as response to firing of Grad missile towards Asheklon this morning. Defense Minister Ehud Barak: 'I urge Hamas not to get smart with us'

The Air Force (IAF) bombed targets in the Gaza Strip Tuesday evening in response to Grad rocket fire on Ashkelon earlier in the day. At 6 pm a vehicle was bombed in Rafah, as well as a Hamas outpost east of Khan Younis.


An outpost belonging to the Izz al-Din al-Qassam, Hamas' military wing, was also struck in Beit Lahiya. Earlier, Gazan sources reported that IAF aircraft bombed tunnels in the Rafah area. Sources said no one was injured in the attacks. 

Strike in Rafah (Photo: AFP)


Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who was addressing the annual Herzliya Conference at the time of the attack, informed the assembled audience that the Air Force "is currently operating in the Gaza Strip."


Earlier Palestinian residents of Rafah said they had received telephone calls from the IDF warning them of an imminent attack

 in the area. For the first time since the ceasefire took hold, a Grad rocket hit central Asheklon on Tuesday. Shortly after 7:00 am the alert sirens blared throughout the city and residents ran for cover in bomb shelters and fortified structures.


The missile landed between two buildings in a residential neighborhood. No injuries were reported. Paramedics treated several people for shock at the scene, and police reported several cars were damaged.


Speaking at the conference, Barak said: "I urge Hamas not to get smart with us, what was isn't what is going to be, the Grad that landed in Ashkelon will not be ignored without a response. As we speak here, the Air Force is operating in Gaza. There is unrest in the land even now as the State of Israel enters its seventh decade, not in 40 years and often not even for 40 days.


"The dove bearing the olive branch has not yet returned because the waters have not yet receded. Hamas again has tired to sow death and destruction, and it was dealt a heavy and painful blow. Hamas will no longer be what it once was."


Barak also addressed the issue of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, saying: "The price demanded for Gilad Shalit will be a hefty one, and I am willing to pay it. A covenant has been formed between us and Gilad. The operation in Gaza and the talks with Egypt are increasing our chances to bring Shalit back – but they do not guarantee it." 

Barak speaks at Herzliya Conference (Photo: Yotam Frum)


'Operation achieved deterrence'

Barak summed up the military operation in Gaza. "We achieved deterrence, even if it comes in the long run," he said. "Hamas was dealt a devastating blow, and we can be trusted to do it again. Now it's necessary to translate the military success in the field.


"As after every operation, even the most successful, there are still some final spasms and everyone wants to be the last to fire a missile," Barak said. "We should not panic or criticize, but act responsibly and with determination. There should be a response and we are responding."


Barak said Gazans were taken hostage by Hamas, which caused civilian casualties during the fighting. "The IDF is the most moral army in the world, and did everything possible to keep the civilian public away from the fire. We will not be taught morality by the countries in the region, and we will not be taught morality by Spain or anyone else," he said.


Regarding affairs of the region Barak said, "Syria has not yet departed from the circle of threats. Hizbullah is currently threatening and arming itself, and Palestinian terror is also threatening to harm us."


The defense minister also touched on the Iranian threat, and said Israel must reach an agreement on the strategy with which to face its nuclear threat.


"We must delimit the short term talks and then be willing to apply harsh sanctions. All of the options are on the table and beyond that I will not say a thing," he said.


He said Israel must be prepared for every scenario regarding Syria and Lebanon while continuing stalled peace talks. Barak added that he had been working on an Israeli peace plan which parallels a plan offered by Saudi Arabia.


"Not every part of the Saudi plan is acceptable to us, but it can constitute a foundation," he said.


Ali Waked contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 02.03.09, 17:52
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