Gaza Strip: Attempts to avoid further escalation between Hamas and Israel
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is expected Wednesday to meet with military chiefs to discuss a response to the barrage of Palestinian rockets and mortar shells that were fired at Israel from Gaza Strip the day before.
The military wing of Hamas claimed responsibility for the strikes, saying the attacks were revenge for Israeli raids in the Palestinian territories over the weekend, in which nine Palestinians died.
Israeli government and army sources projected that Israel's response would be "moderate" and not involve a major ground operation in Gaza Strip because no one was hurt and due to pleas for calm by members of the Palestinian leadership.
The Israeli sources told Haaretz that Hamas' claim of responsibility - the first since it formed a unity government with Fatah - should make it clear to all that this is a "terrorist government."
Meanwhile, Egyptian security officials in Gaza intend to meet Wednesday with Hamas' armed wing and other armed groups to try to avoid any further escalation, after Hamas claimed responsibility for the strikes.
Senior Israeli officers said the army also foiled a Hamas attempt to kidnap a soldier on the Gaza border Tuesday. Apparently as part of this attempt, the dozens of rockets and shells were fired at southern Israel. There were no casualties.
On his part, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday that Hamas' violation of the five-month-old Gaza Strip calm was an exception and would not be repeated, calling on Israel to show restraint in order to avoid a security deterioration.
"The violation of the truce is an exceptional event that will not last," said Abbas at a news conference with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi in Rome.
"I take this opportunity to appeal to Israel to show the necessary self-control so that this will not happen again."