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Israel Threatens Major Military Offensive in Gaza

Israel is threatening to invade the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Robert Berger reports from the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.

Returning home from Washington, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel is considering a major military offensive in Gaza.

"At this moment the pendulum is swinging closer to military action in Gaza than anything else," Mr. Olmert said.

He was responding to a Palestinian mortar attack Thursday that killed an Israeli on a kibbutz or collective farm, the third kibbutz resident killed in a month.

Mr. Olmert said the failure to achieve a cease-fire after months of mediation efforts by Egypt made an invasion of Gaza more likely. Hamas, which rules Gaza, has offered Israel a truce, but the Islamic militant group has refused to meet Israeli conditions including a halt to weapons smuggling from Egypt and releasing a captive Israeli soldier.

Palestinian analyst Wadia Abu Nasser says Israel should reconsider.

"This cease-fire, it is of the interest of both Israel and Hamas," said Abu Nasser.

Abu Nasser says Hamas would benefit by Israel lifting its crippling blockade on Gaza, and Israel would get peace and quiet for weary residents in the south.

A truce could also give a boost to the peace process. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has warned Israel that an invasion of Gaza would torpedo efforts by the United States to reach a peace agreement by the end of the year.