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Dichter: Stop Kassams at Any Cost. Olmert: Continue Restraint.

Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter demanded that the IDF stop Kassam attacks on southern Israel at any cost, even if it means reconquering territory in Gaza to widen the security buffer zone.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 6/4/2006, 4:52 PM / Last Update: 6/4/2006, 7:44 PM

Dichter was adamant that the defense establishment take steps to put an end to the constant rocket fire launched from northern Gaza into the western Negev, “as the IDF paralyzed Hezbollah this week.”

Media reports said that Dichter recommended at Sunday's cabinet meeting that Israel retake territory in Gaza in order to distance Kassam rockets from Israeli towns in the Negev.

IDF fighter jets and attack helicopters fired on terrorist bases in Lebanon last week after Katyushas and sniper fire were aimed at Israeli communities in the north. Residents in northern Israel communities were ordered into bomb shelters while the Israel Air Force destroyed a number of terrorist bases, including at least one near the Syrian border.

“We must act as in the north,” said Dichter. “If need be, we can turn Beit Hanoun into a ghost town. We need to return the balance of deterrence. It can’t be that in one week, we can stop Hezbollah fire but not Kassam fire,” he said.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert defended the military policy in the south. “All of the operations carried out recently in Gaza brought good results,” he said. “For that, the defense establishment, and the defense minister deserve all our respect,” he added.

Earlier in the day, Kassam rockets scored a direct hit on a parking lot in Sderot, damaging a number of vehicles though no injuries were reported. A greenhouse near Mivtachim in the Negev was also damaged by a Kassam rocket. No injuries were reported.

A rocket attack last week scored a direct hit on two houses in Sderot, destroying property and traumatizing residents, including two people sent to the hospital for shock. Air and artillery attack, accompanied by Israel’s deepest ground raid into northern Gaza, were followed by more Kassam attacks.

“The Kassams have to be stopped,” insisted Dichter, “no matter what”.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni joined Olmert in calling for restraint, along with several other senior officials, who maintained that innocent civilians should not be harmed.

“We have strong means in our arsenal,” agreed Olmert during the discussion of how to put a stop to the Kassam attacks in the south, “but sometimes international considerations limit their effectiveness.”

The fight against terror, he said, also involves consideration of political fallout as well. “It’s not worth harming civilians,” he said. “What is appropriate, and when, should be carefully considered,” he said.

Livni was less diplomatic in her criticism. “Your words are unacceptable,” she said. “In other words, you are saying, ‘let the IDF win’ – and from that it would appear that you have realistic and acceptable solutions…which the government does not want to implement --- something that is incorrect.”

She echoed Olmert’s insistence on consideration of diplomatic fallout from any plan to defend Negev towns from the daily barrage of Kassam rockets.

“If there were such solutions we would be implementing them,” she said. “I assume that the solutions you propose do not include shelling civilians,” she added pointedly. “The limits and orders this government gives to the IDF represent basic principles, acceptable to all ministers.”