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Israel's Prime Minister Vows 'War' Against Gaza

Israel's prime minister on Thursday vowed to wage war against Palestinian militants who are continuing to fire homemade rockets at southern Israel. An Israeli air strike killed two Palestinian militants in Gaza on Thursday. Twenty-five Palestinians, mostly militants and one foreign worker in Israel have been killed so far this week in the Gaza violence. VOA's Jim Teeple reports.

Israeli officials say some 30 Qassam rockets and two mortars struck the southern Israeli town of Sderot on Thursday. A retaliatory Israeli air strike killed a leading Palestinian militant and his wife who belonged to the so-called Popular Resistance Committees, responsible for many of the rocket attacks.

Speaking to a business group in Tel Aviv, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called the continued rocket attacks intolerable and said Israel will wage war against the Gaza militants.

Mr. Olmert says the Israeli strikes are not the last strikes that the Palestinian militants will absorb in light of their continued firing of rockets on the residents of southern Israel.

For now, Mr. Olmert and his military commanders have ruled out a large scale military operation in Gaza. Previous operations have resulted in large-scale casualties among Palestinian civilians as well as significant Israeli army casualties and no end to the rocket attacks.

The Israeli air strikes and ground incursions in Gaza are being condemned by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other leading members of his Fatah-led administration in the West Bank, who say if the Israeli actions continue it will be difficult to continue peace negotiations with Israel.

On Thursday Mr. Abbas, went so far as to call his bitter enemy, Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar and offer condolences for the death of his son who was killed fighting Israeli troops earlier this week. Ahmed Yousef, a senior Hamas leader, says the Israeli attacks are helping to bring Hamas and Fatah closer together.

Yousef says Mr. Abbas' telephone call is a sign that Palestinians will soon be united and facing Israel together.

Hamas and Fatah have been bitter enemies for years. Since the militant Islamic group ousted Fatah forces from Gaza last year, the Palestinian territories have been divided, with Fatah running the West Bank, and Hamas in control of Gaza.

Palestinian militants have fired about 4,000 of the homemade Qassams at southern Israel since Israeli troops and settlers disengaged from the Gaza Strip in 2005. While the rockets have not resulted in large numbers of casualties, concerns are growing because the range of the rockets is growing, with some now reaching the city of Ashkelon, home to more than 100,000 Israelis about 15 kilometers from the Gaza border.