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Foreign Minister: Israel Should Topple Hamas

Israeli tanks drive next to the border between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip, April 8, 2011
Israeli tanks drive next to the border between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip, April 8, 2011

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman says Israel should topple the Palestinian militant group Hamas from power in the Gaza Strip in response to several days of deadly fighting between the two sides.

A truce appeared to be taking hold in the region Monday, a day after Israeli forces ended airstrikes against Gaza militants who fired sharply fewer rockets into southern Israel than during previous days.

But Lieberman said it would be a serious mistake for Israel to agree with Hamas on a new period of calm, which he said would enable the militants to rearm and set the terms of future confrontations.

The Israeli foreign minister said the objective should be to topple the Hamas government that has ruled Gaza since 2007 and seeks Israel's destruction.

The latest fighting erupted Thursday, when Hamas militants fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli school bus, wounding a teenager and the driver.

The Israeli military responded with three days of airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza, killing 19 Palestinians, mostly militants, while the militants fired about 120 rockets and mortars into Israel on Friday and Saturday.

It was the deadliest escalation of violence since the two sides fought a brief war from December 2008 to January 2009.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Sunday Israel is willing to stop firing if Hamas does the same.

Barak and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have more influence over Israel's defense policies than Lieberman, who leads an ultranationalist party.

Hamas said it would agree to return to a situation of "calm" if Israel stops its attacks.

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

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