Israel on Thursday threatened tougher military action against Hamas in the occupied Gaza Strip should its gunners continue to open fire against Jewish settlements and Israeli territory.
On his part, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas expressed concern that the situation remained so sensitive that the smallest provocation could bring the end to the "calm" declared three months ago by the Palestinian factions.
"We must act in a more aggressive manner than we have so far," Israeli Deputy Defence Minister Zeev Boim told public radio on Thursday. "Until now, we have acted with moderation and restraint because we want to have calm in the run-up to the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, but it is conceivable to proceed with the evacuation under (Palestinian) fire. "If the Palestinian Authority does not get the message, we will make it understand," Boim added.
Israel on Wednesday carried out its first air strike since January against Palestinian resistance fighters in the Gaza Strip, injuring a Hamas member who later died.
"If terrorism continues until the pullout we should repress it before going ahead with the withdrawal," said Boim.
On the ground, Hamas stressed that it reserved the right to respond to "Israeli aggression." "In the face of each aggression, there will be a reaction, there will be revenge," spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP.
"We are committed to the cool-down but the Israeli occupation has not stopped its aggressions. Israel has not respected our conditions," he noted.
The Palestinian Authority on Thursday accused Israel of seeking to ruin the calm. "The Israeli aim now is to sabotage (PA President) Mahmoud Abbas's upcoming visit to Washington," PA foreign ministry official Abdullah Abdullah told IRNA.
He accused the Israeli army of carrying out "unprovoked missile attacks on Palestinians who initiated no violence against Israeli targets." "I am talking about a few men who were just standing. Why did they fire a missile on these men, they didn't fire a single bullet on Israeli soldiers or settlers?" asked Abdullah.