Barak and Gates - Reuters - March 24, 2011
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates (L) and Defense Minister Ehud Barak shake hands after a news conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 24, 2011. Photo by Reuters
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Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Thursday that Israel holds Hamas responsible for the recent rocket and mortar strikes from the Gaza Strip.

In a joint press conference with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Barak said that because Hamas is in power in Gaza, they are responsible for the actions of Islamic Jihad and other factions in the Strip, saying Hamas must control these groups.

Barak stressed that Hamas must be held responsible since Israel cannot tell between the different sources of rocket fire coming from Gaza, saying that when a rocket falls on a family in Be'er Sheba, for example, it doesn't matter which "gang" fired it.

Cross-border tensions between Israel and Gaza have been escalating recently, the latest being two Grad rockets and a Qassam fired at southern Israel from Gaza on Thursday. One of the rockets struck north of Ashdod and could be heard in Yavneh, some 25 kilometers from Tel Aviv. The Qassam fell in the city of Sderot.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Gates urged Israel and the Palestinians on Thursday to take bold action to reach a peace deal.

"There is a need and an opportunity for bold action to move toward a two-state solution," Gates said while speaking alongside Barak in Tel Aviv.

Gates also stressed that Israel has a right to bring justice to the perpetrators of the attacks.

Israel has carried out a series of airstrikes on Gaza targets in recent days in response to continued rocket and mortar shells fired into southern Israel.