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Israel promises tough response to attacks

Last Updated: Sunday, December 27, 2009 - 20:45

Jerusalem: Israel`s Prime Minister warned on Sunday that his country would retaliate "forcefully" against any attacks, and congratulated the military for gunning down three Palestinian militants he held responsible for killing a Jewish settler.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Cabinet ministers from his Likud Party on Sunday that one of the militants had been freed from an Israeli prison — highlighting the risks of the prisoner swap deal Israel is negotiating with Gaza militants in a bid to free a long-held Israeli soldier.

"We want to free captives, but at the same time, we want to minimize the risk to our civilians," he said, according to a meeting participant who spoke on condition of anonymity because the session was closed.

He later told his Cabinet he would fly on Tuesday to Egypt, which has mediated the swap talks along with Germany, to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Israel has forwarded its response to the latest proposed swap deal to Gaza`s Islamic Hamas rulers, who have not yet responded.

"At this point there is no deal, and it`s not clear there will be a deal," Netanyahu said.

Critics have faulted Netanyahu for considering releasing as many as 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Sgt Gilad Schalit, who was seized Hamas-linked by militants in a cross-border attack in June 2006 and taken to the Gaza Strip.

West Bank settlers have criticized him for removing some of the hundreds of roadblocks the Israeli military had maintained in the West Bank. The dismantling of the roadblocks was meant to ease the movement of Palestinian people and goods in the territory, but settlers say it gave militants a license to strike last week.

Netanyahu`s vow to go after attackers was his first public comment on the shooting death of the Israeli settler in the West Bank last week.

Israel will "continue to act forcefully against any attack on Israeli citizens and any shooting of rockets or missiles at Israel," he said at the start of the weekly Cabinet session.

Early Saturday, Israeli forces carried out a pre-dawn raid in the northern West Bank that killed three men it accused of killing the settler.

The Israeli Army said Sunday that ballistic evidence showed a weapon confiscated in Saturday`s raid was used to kill the Israeli settler. It gave no further details.

Bureau Report

First Published: Sunday, December 27, 2009 - 20:45
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