Israel vows not to bow to pressure on attacks

Israel said yesterday it would not bow to international pressure to end air strikes in Gaza that officials there said had killed almost 100 Palestinians, despite an offer by US president Barack Obama to help negotiate a ceasefire with militants.

Asked if Israel might move from the mostly aerial attacks of the past four days into a ground war in Gaza to stop militant rocket fire, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu replied: “We are weighing all possibilities and preparing for all possibilities.”

“No international pressure will prevent us from acting with all power,” he told reporters in Tel Aviv a day after a telephone conversation with Obama about the worst flare-up in Israeli-Palestinian violence in almost two years.

Washington yesterday affirmed Israel’s right to defend itself in a statement from the Pentagon. But Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel told Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon he was concerned “about the risk of further escalation and emphasised the need for all sides to do everything they can to protect civilian lives and restore calm.”

A rocket caused the first serious Israeli casualty — one of eight people hurt when a fuel tanker was hit at a service station in Ashdod, 30km north of Gaza, and Palestinian militants warned international airlines they would fire rockets at Tel Aviv’s main airport.

Medical officials in Gaza said at least 75 civilians, including 23 children, were among at least 99 people killed in the aerial bombardments, which Israel began on Tuesday. They included 12 killed yesterday.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged the United Nations Security Council to order an immediate truce.

But Israel said it was determined to end cross-border rocket attacks that intensified last month after its forces arrested hundreds of activists from the Islamist Hamas movement in the occupied West Bank following the abduction there of three Jewish teenagers who were later found killed. A Palestinian youth was killed in Jerusalem in a suspected Israeli revenge attack.

Israel’s military commander, Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz, said his forces were ready to act as needed — an indication of a readiness to send in tanks and other ground troops, as Israel last did for two weeks in early 2009.

Western-backed Abbas, who is based in the West Bank and agreed a power-sharing deal with Gaza’s dominant Hamas in April after years of feuding, called for international help. “The Palestinian leadership urges the Security Council to quickly issue a clear condemnation of this Israeli aggression and impose a commitment of a mutual ceasefire immediately,” he said.

After the failure of the latest US-brokered peace talks with Israel, Abbas’s accord with Hamas angered Israel.

Hamas’s armed wing said it would fire rockets at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion international airport and warned airlines not to fly there.

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