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Rocket Attacks and Israeli Restraint Continue

Prime Minister Olmert's restraint continues in the face of Kassam rockets slamming into Israel. He and Palestinian Authority chairman Abbas are talking about meeting.
By Hillel Fendel and Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 12/22/2006, 10:17 AM / Last Update: 12/22/2006, 8:54 AM

Two rockets slammed into Sderot Thursday, one of them striking a community center and another hitting an empty bus. Three people were injured by shrapnel or otherwise, and heavy damage was sustained. Another rocket frighteningly awakened city residents early Friday morning.

A separate attack on Thursday hit the port city of Ashkelon. The city is home to strategic oil and gas pipelines and a large electric power plant.

Some 45 Kassam rockets have been launched from Gaza against Israel since the November 26 truce went into effect, according to remarks made by Prime Minister Olmert Thursday afternoon.

Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Tzachi HaNegbi (Kadima) told Voice of Israel government radio Friday morning that counter-terrorist actions by Israel are inevitable.

HaNegbi supported Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's policy of restraint on the assumption that it will give Israel a diplomatic advantage. He said the world will give Israel more "diplomatic credit" Israel for having held its end of the Gaza ceasefire obligation despite the incessant attacks against her.

The Prime Minister has withstood pressure from government ministers who have said "enough is enough" and that the time has come to strike back. Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor), a former senior IDF officer and ex-Defense Minister, said that "time has run out" for Abbas. Defense Minister Peretz, a resident of Sderot whose bodyguard lost his legs last month in a Kassam rocket attack, also asserted that the policy of restraint should be re-examined.

Opposition leader ex-Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called on the Prime Minister Thursday night to "free the IDF's hands" and resume counter-terrorist operations. "It is not the nation that is tired," Netanyahu said. "Olmert is tired. There is only one thing worse than a nation that has lost faith in its leaders, and that is leaders who have lost faith in their nation. I call on the Prime Minister to put an end to this restraint. It’s absurd that we are tying our own hands on this matter."

Speaking to a Likud gathering, Netanyahu asserted, "A leader needs to be an active authority, not a passive one [of] restraint and inaction."

Minister Rafi Eitan of the Pensioners Party predicted that Israel's restraint will end "sooner or later," and when it does, "it must be done in a way that will be interpreted by the world as an unavoidable option."

The security mini-cabinet will convene on Sunday to discuss the continued policy of restraint.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Olmert and Abbas say they are anxious to meet with each other before U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visits the region in January.

"If it's possible to make [Abbas] happy and make me happy, then I can't see a reason not to [meet], and hope that it will happen very soon," Olmert said Thursday.

The PA news agency, Ma'an, reported that a meeting would be held this Monday, but Olmert's office has denied it and Abbas has not confirmed it.