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Palestinian Rockets Hit Israel Despite Threat of Retaliation


At least seven rockets fired by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip struck southern Israel, a day after Israel's prime minister warned that ending the rocket fire could take a long time. VOA's Jim Teeple reports from our Jerusalem bureau.

Hamas militants are keeping up their rocket attacks, despite threats of massive retaliation from Israeli officials and a plea by moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to renew a ceasefire with Israel that collapsed more than a week ago.

The Associated Press reports Israel's Army has been given approval to broaden ground operations against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. Israel has carried out daily airstrikes against Hamas militants in Gaza for more than a week, killing about 50 Palestinians, but the rocket attacks have continued.

Miri Eisen a spokeswoman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will not say if Hamas leaders will be targeted by Israeli forces, but she says those who are firing rockets at Israel will pay a heavy price.

"The citizens of the south are now under direct attack by Hamas rockets. We do not go into the operational details of how we will strike, but we state clearly to the Hamas, the Hamas-led government, the Hamas that are firing the rockets barrages into Israel, we will respond harshly and severely," she said.

Hamas leaders have warned Israel not to target their leaders, and have also threatened to kill an Israeli soldier being held by Palestinian militants in Gaza.

Hamas has for the time being also rejected a call by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to agree to a one-month cease-fire with Israel. Hamas leaders say they will only accept a cease-fire if Israel agrees to extend it to include the West Bank, something Israel rejects.