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Olmert Resists Pressure to Invade Gaza after Rocket Attack


Israel is backing away from an invasion of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, despite outrage over a Palestinian rocket attack. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, Palestinian militants have reacted defiantly to new Israeli threats.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is resisting pressure for a major military offensive in Gaza, after an eight-year-old Israeli boy lost his leg in a Palestinian rocket attack. The attack occurred in the hard hit Israeli border town of Sderot, prompting angry residents to march to Jerusalem.

They chanted slogans calling for Mr. Olmert to resign and demanded a harsh military response to the rocket attacks.

The Prime Minister told the weekly Cabinet meeting that he understands the anger.

But he said that "anger is not an operational plan." He said Israel would continue its current policy of limited military action in Gaza.

"We will continue to go after terrorists and those who send them," he said.

Mr. Olmert fears that a major offensive in Gaza would harm U.S.-backed peace talks with the moderate Palestinian government in the West Bank.

But Cabinet Minister Meir Sheetrit of Mr. Olmert's Kadima party said restraint has not worked.

Sheetrit said Gaza neighborhoods used to fire rockets should be "wiped off the map."

The Islamic militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza, warned Israel against an invasion.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Israeli threats would not deter Hamas from resisting the occupation. He said any Israeli offensive in Gaza is doomed to failure.

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