Israel intends to strike against Hamas leaders
JERUSALEM, Saturday (AP) - Israel will go after more Hamas targets in an effort to halt rocket fire from Gaza, Israel's defense minister said Saturday, leaving open the possibility of strikes against the Islamic militant group's political and military leaders, including its prime minister.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz told Israel Radio that Israel does not want to get involved in the internal fighting between Hamas and the Fatah movement of moderate President Mahmoud Abbas, which left more than 50 Palestinians dead this week. However, he also said that ''we certainly would like the moderate forces to emerge with the upper hand,'' a reference to Fatah.
In recent days, Israeli aircraft unleased strikes against Hamas metal work shops and rocket squads, killing 20 Palestinians in an attempt to halt rocket fire on Israeli border towns.
Peretz said Israel would keep going after Hamas targets. ''We are mainly focusing on sensitive locations tied to Hamas,'' he said, adding that this included places where rockets are made. Two Gaza metal work shops were hit earlier Saturday.
Peretz said those involved in launching rockets should be ''very afraid.''
Asked whether the head of Hamas' military wing, Ahmed Jaberi, and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas could also be targets, Peretz said he wouldn't rule out any action that ''makes it clear to everyone that we don't intend to allow anyone to harm Israeli citizens.''
''The Palestinians need to understand that Hamas is leading them into disaster, a real disaster,'' Peretz said. ''It is our intention to act against Hamas.''
Peretz said the time wasn't right for a major ground offensive in Gaza, and that the military still has enough other tools to deal with the rocket threat. The defense minister said Israel is worried about efforts by Hamas to improve the range of the rockets. He said Palestinian militants from Gaza were receiving training abroad, including in Iran, in order to improve the reach of the rockets.