Barak Offers Ceasefire

Barak says Israel will stop attacking Hamas terrorists if they stop firing on Israelis. Attacks from Gaza dwindle. Mortar shell knocks out power.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu , | updated: 8:18 AM

Remains of school bus attacked by Hamas
Remains of school bus attacked by Hamas
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Defense Minister Ehud Barak Sunday morning offered Hamas a halt to retaliatory attacks on Gaza terrorists if they stop firing on Israelis.

Hamas and allied terrorists fired three more mortar shells from Gaza Sunday morning, one of them hitting a high-voltage power line and knocking out electricty in the Gaza Belt area.

However, no rockets were fired, indicating that Hamas is continuing a two-year strategy of drawing Israel into a massive retaliation for attacks and then backing off, while winning sympathy in the media and among foreign countries.

The de facto Hamas government in Gaza attacked Israelis with more than 120 rockets, missiles and mortar shells since Friday, causing heavy damage but no injuries. On Tuesday, Hamas fired an an anti-tank rocket at a school bus, critically wounding a 16-year-old boy and moderately injuring the driver.

Israel scored a strategic advance by intercepting eight medium-range Grad missiles with the new but expensive Iron Dome system. Barak emphasized that the missile-intercepting system does not provide total protection, and that if anyone wants to feel totally safe, “He should move to Finland.”

The world reaction to the latest round of attacks and retaliation echoed the period after the beginning of the Operation Cast Lead defensive counterterrorist campaign two years ago, following thousands of rocket attacks on southern Israel.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton stated, "I strongly condemn…mortar and rocket attacks out of the Gaza Strip, which once again hit the innocent civilian population and which must stop immediately."

"I also deplore the loss of civilian life in Gaza and call on Israel to show restraint. The lives of civilians must be spared everywhere and in all circumstances. Only an immediate cessation of all violence can bring back the calm necessary to allow for a lasting truce in the Gaza Strip."