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Israel Considers Major Offensive in Response to Gaza Rocket Fire

Israel has begun a diplomatic effort to justify its threats to launch a military response to rocket attacks launched on its villages from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Israel's envoy to the United Nations has sent a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressing the nation's concerns. Israeli diplomats will also begin meeting with their counterparts at their postings abroad to discuss the situation.

Fighting has escalated since Friday when the militant group Hamas declared an end to a six-month truce with Israel. Palestinian rockets fired from Gaza Sunday crashed into southern Israel, prompting an Israeli air strike against a rocket launcher in northern Gaza.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he has ordered the army to create plans for how, when and where to respond to increased militant attacks from Gaza.

But a spokesman for Hamas says it will observe a 24-hour ceasefire at the request of Egyptian mediators.

The two leading candidates for prime minister pledged to oust the Hamas regime if elected.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who leads the ruling Kadima party, said her government's strategic objective would be to remove Hamas with all available means.

The head of the opposition Likud party, Benjamin Netanyahu, called for a more active policy of attack on Gaza, and he accused the Kadima government of doing nothing.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.