Israeli Defense Minister Threatens Gaza Invasion
Sun August 31, 2003 07:52 AM ET
By Jeffrey Heller
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's defense minister on Sunday raised the specter of an Israeli invasion in the Gaza Strip, where Palestinian militants already face a deadly air campaign.
Israeli military commentators say a ground offensive in the densely populated Gaza Strip, home to more than one million people under Palestinian control, would cause heavy Israeli and Palestinian casualties.
"We always have the option of a ground operation in Gaza," Shaul Mofaz said. "We will exercise it when we decide it is right to do so, at the appropriate time."
Israel has killed 13 Palestinians, including 10 militants, in helicopter missiles strikes since a Hamas suicide bomber killed 21 people on an Israeli bus in Jerusalem on August 19.
Mofaz spoke to reporters hours after a Palestinian gunman shot and wounded an Israeli truck driver at the Jewish settlement of Rafiah Yam in the southern Gaza Strip, the latest violence to batter a U.S.-backed peace "road map."
The shooting, claimed by the militant Islamic group Hamas, followed an Israeli helicopter missile strike Saturday that killed Abdullah Aqel, leader of its armed wing in central Gaza, and another Hamas member.
Palestinian Information Minister Nabil Amr said the attack in the Bureij refugee camp destroyed any chance for the resumption of talks with Israel and called on the United States to intervene and halt the cycle of violence.
"Israel's continuation of such policy means that it is completely turning its back on...calm and the possibility of implementing the road map," Amr said about the plan that envisages creation of a Palestinian state by 2005.
In a separate Gaza incident, an eight-year-old Palestinian girl was killed by an Israeli tank shell while riding her bicycle near her home in the city of Khan Younis Palestinian security sources and medics said.
The army said troops opened fire in the area after an explosive device blew up near a patrol, damaging a military vehicle. An army spokesman could not confirm anyone was hit.
SHARON SAYS WON'T TOLERATE ROCKET ATTACKS
Israeli security sources said that Aqel, 37, was behind recent rocket attacks on southern Israel from northern Gaza.
"Ashkelon will not become the frontline -- neither Ashkelon nor any other place," Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told reporters Sunday, referring to the southern city hit on Thursday by a makeshift Qassam rocket that caused no casualties or damage.
Saturday's missile attack in the Gaza Strip came a day after Palestinian gunmen shot dead a Jewish settler in the West Bank.
Islamic militants renounced a seven-week-old truce on August 21 shortly after Israel killed Hamas's second-ranking political leader, Ismail Abu Shanab, by attacking his car with a missile.
Israel has been mounting West Bank sweeps for suspected militants since the truce collapsed but has refrained from major ground operations in the Gaza Strip, sending in bulldozers instead to destroy buildings and uproot foliage providing cover for rocket squads.
Comments: Sharon will not tolerate rocket attacks against his people because his people are the chosen ones of God. Of course the chosen ones deserve better treatment than anyone else. Therefore it is perfectly within the rights of Zionist extremists to kill innocent Palestinians. God is telling Sharon this personally. Sharon is the devine leader of Zoinist Isreal. It is perfeclty alright for him to ignore decency in order to achieve the will of God.
God couldn't possibly be wrong, could he?