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Israel Threatens 'Harsh' Retaliation for Palestinian Rocket Attacks

Israel is threatening to hit back hard for Palestinian rocket fire from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Six weeks after the Gaza war, Israel is growing impatient with continuing Palestinian rocket attacks. The issue topped the agenda at the weekly Cabinet meeting, a day after a rocket slammed into an empty school in the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned that if the rocket fire continues, there will be "a painful, harsh, and strong response" against the Islamic militant group Hamas that rules Gaza.

The army says Palestinians have fired more than 110 rockets and mortar shells at Israel since the Gaza offensive ended on January 18. The aim of the three-week Israeli assault was to stop rocket attacks, so there is a growing sense in Israel the war did not achieve its goals.

Israeli analyst Yoni Ben Menachem says Israel failed to defeat Hamas so another round of conflict is inevitable.

"The Hamas infrastructure is still there, the rockets are still arriving from the other side (of the border), the (weapons) smuggling continues. And I think definitely we are going to another round. This is obvious," Ben Menachem said.

The threat of renewed violence in Gaza coincides with a visit to the region by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who hopes to advance the peace process. She is expected to present a package for $900 million in American aid to the Palestinians at an international conference on Gaza reconstruction Monday in Egypt. Then she heads to Jerusalem and the West Bank for separate talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.