Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has ordered a resumption of military strikes against Palestinian militants, and was accused of breaking the truce that has lasted since November 26.
The Hamas government spokesman Ghazi Hamad denounced the decision as ‘Zionism continuing their aggression against our people’.
However, he added: ‘We still believe that this agreement is alive, and both sides should respect this agreement because it is in the interest of our people.’
After meeting with security chiefs, Olmert said in a statement released through his office that ‘A directive has been given to the defence establishment to take pinpoint action against the rocket-launching squads.’
Claiming the November 26 truce was still intact, he added: ‘In parallel, Israel will continue to maintain the ceasefire and work with the Palestinian (National) Authority so that immediate steps are taken to halt the Qassam (rocket) firings.’
‘Stop the attacks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip immediately or expect more rockets on Siderot and on Ashkelon and beyond,’ warned a leaflet issued by Saraya al-Quds, the military arm of Islamic Jihad resistance movement.
‘There will be no truce with the Israeli enemy at the expense of the blood of our people,’ also warned the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades armed group, affiliated to PNA President Abbas’ Fatah party.
The Israeli military has claimed that seven rockets in all were fired on Tuesday, one of which seriously injured two teenage boys in Siderot.
Islamic Jihad said it carried out the attack on Tuesday in retaliation for recent assassinations carried out by Israeli Army undercover ‘hit squads’ in the West Bank.
Meanwhile, Israeli forces detained 22 Palestinians from various West Bank areas overnight.
Activists of different factions were among those arrested in the operation which focused on areas in the northern West Bank.
The 26th November ceasefire was called to halt five months of Israeli bombardments and massacres in Gaza that began after Palestinian resistance fighters killed two Israeli soldiers and captured another in an attack on an army post.
Since then, Israel claims that more than 60 rockets have been fired into Israel.
Israel has assassinated 15 Palestinians since the ceasefire began, all but one in the West Bank.
Meanwhile, Israel yesterday approved the construction of a new illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank.
The Israeli defence ministry said 30 houses would be built in the settlement for families moved from the Gaza Strip.
The construction of the Maskiot settlement in the West Bank’s northern Jordan Valley will begin within weeks, Israeli defence ministry officials added.
The decision was denounced by Palestinian National Authority officials, who said it violated the US-backed ‘road-map’ peace plan for the region.
PNA presidential aide Saeb Erekat said: ‘We condemn this act and this decision especially as it comes after the Israeli side committed itself to stop all unilateral actions.’
l Egypt said yesterday that captured Israeli soldier Corporal Gilad Shalit is alive and well.