Israel calls for reoccupation of Gaza after rocket salvos

Israel`s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has called for reoccupation of the Gaza Strip, following a heavy Palestinian rocket fire into the Jewish state.

PTI| Last Updated: Mar 13, 2014, 07:28 AM IST

Jerusalem: Israel`s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has called for reoccupation of the Gaza Strip, following a heavy Palestinian rocket fire into the Jewish state.

He said Israel would have no choice but to reoccupy Gaza, from which it withdrew all troops and settlers in 2005, after the militant strikes- biggest wave of attacks in 16 months.

"I do not think we can ignore such an attack, a salvo of 50 rockets. My views are known and clear. After Operations Cast Lead and Pillar of Defence, there is now no other choice but complete occupation of the Gaza Strip, and cleaning house there," Lieberman told Channel 2.

Israel earlier this week displayed a cache of advanced arms, including long-range rockets, seized from a ship it claimed to have been sent by Iran for Gaza-based militants.

"There are many terror hideouts and thousands of rockets in the Strip, and every day (terror organisations in Gaza) increase weapons smuggling and self-production of bombs, and this is why we need to put an end to it," Lieberman said.

The Islamic Jihad`s military wing claimed responsibility for the rocket fire, saying it was in response to an air strike on Tuesday that killed three of its militants in southern Gaza.

The militant faction, which claimed to have fired 90 rockets, took advantage of the stormy weather when the Israel Defence Forces` ability to identify and intercept rocket fire is lower.

This escalation in violence came hours after British Prime Minister David Cameron arrived on his first official visit to Israel since taking office in 2010.

The Israeli Foreign Minister said: "The Islamic Jihad is sending a message to Cameron, who visited the Knesset today and gave a speech in favour of an agreement between us and the Palestinians - `we are on the map, and we will stop any agreement between Israel and the Palestinians`."

The British Premier strongly condemned the rocket fire calling it "barbaric".

"Let me absolutely clear about these attacks from Gaza, we condemn them completely," Cameron said during a press conference with Israel`s President Shimon Peres.

"These attacks are completely indiscriminate aimed at civilian populations and that is a demonstration of how barbaric they are," Cameron said.

Israel`s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to "hit hard" against terror attacks but was guarded in response.

Asked about Liberman`s remarks, Netanyahu did not endorse them and evaded addressing it directly saying he would not get into "operational details."

Netanyahu said the number of rockets fired from Gaza last year was the lowest it has been in a decade "but we are not satisfied with that".

Israel Defence Forces (IDF) tanks fired at militants` infrastructure in the Gaza Strip yesterday evening, one in its north and another in its south, in response to the barrage of at least 60 rockets fired at the Israeli southern area.

Residents in the Beit Hanoun area of Gaza said they saw an Israeli strike hit a rocket launcher squad.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from the rocket fire in southern Israel, but a 57-year-old woman from Sderot was lightly injured while running to take cover.

The much publicised Iron Dome missile-defence system intercepted at least three rockets over Sderot. This was the heaviest barrage of rockets fired from the Strip on Israel since the 2012 Operation Pillar of Defence.