Tel Aviv: Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak urged the Gaza Strip`s Hamas rulers on Monday to rein in militant groups behind a surge in attacks on Israel, coupling his appeal with a veiled threat of Israeli action.
"I think the recent days reflect the inability of Hamas to control the dissident groups, the Popular Committees or Islamic Jihad, who are trying to break the tranquility," Barak told Reuters during the unveiling of an Israeli anti-rocket system due to be deployed outside the Gaza Strip by June.
"Hamas is well deterred from trying another direct collision with Israel. I hope that they will take over -- or else," he said in English, referring to the Islamist movement imposing its authority over smaller armed groups.
On Sunday, three Palestinian militants were killed in an Israeli air strike in the Gaza Strip hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed a "powerful response" to any attacks from the territory.
Netanyahu said 20 mortar bombs and rockets had been fired at Israel from the Hamas-ruled territory last week.
"I view this very seriously. The government`s policy is clear, any shooting at our territory will receive an immediate and powerful response," he said.
Violence has risen along the Israeli-Gaza frontier in the past month, which could further complicate US-backed diplomacy in the region, after a respite since a three-week Gaza war a year ago in which 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died.
Three Palestinians were killed in a series of Israeli air strikes in Gaza on Thursday, including the first air raid in months to target a site inside Gaza City.
Palestinians said the targets were sites belonging to other militant groups, not Hamas Islamists who seized the territory in 2002 and are seen as having reined in violence since the Israeli offensive last January.
Israel also dropped leaflets warning Gaza`s 1.5 million residents to avoid coming within 300 meters (yards) of the border fence with Israel, citing security reasons.