PM: Continuation of Qassam fire despite truce is 'disappointing'
Two Qassams land in Sderot, causing no injuries or damage; Halutz: IDF not consulted enough on truce.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday he was disappointed that Qassam fire from the Gaza Strip had continued into the third day of a mutual cease-fire.
"I very much hope the Palestinians will keep up their obligations and stop firing," Olmert said.
Palestinian militants in the Gaza on Tuesday fired two rockets at the western Negev town of Sderot. Both rockets landed in an open field north of the city, causing no injuries or damage.
Earlier Tuesday, Defense Minister Amir Peretz warned the Palestinian Authority to enforce the truce, saying that failure to do so could force a "fierce" Israeli response.
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz criticized the decision-making process of the political echelon on Tuesday, saying that the army was only partly involved in the decision to declare a cease-fire with the Palestinians.
The IDF altered its rules of engagement along the Israel-Gaza border, after two Qassam rockets were fired from the northern Gaza Strip on Monday. The new rules allow troops to fire should they positively identify Palestinian militants preparing to launch a rocket.
The rockets, the first in over 24 hours, were fired Monday afternoon. They did not cause any injuries. One landed in the Palestinian Authority, and the second hit an open area in the western Negev.
There were no Qassams fired Tuesday morning.
Halutz, speaking later in the day to a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said that the Palestinians want the ceasefire to work only for them, and that weapons were still being shuttled to Lebanon.
Committee member Danny Naveh (Likud) said of Halutz' statements regarding decision-making, "this is very serious, because the [truce] agreement includes preventing Hamas from gaining new weapons."
"This is the result of disagreements between the prime minister and the minister of defense, who doesn't believe in the chief of staff," Naveh continued.
Knesset member Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said that the Halutz overview proved that the cease-fire is not dealing with the main problem of "building a Hamas army in the Gaza strip."
According to Steinitz, "there is an Israeli-Palestinian deal underway, which means that in exchange for a short break in the attacks on Sderot, Israel is giving a green light to the Palestinians to continue smuggling weapons and building up their missile threat from Gaza."
Ran Cohen (Meretz) said that "the IDF can't take the attitude of avoiding responsibility, and it must protect the fragile ceasefire." He demanded that the chief of staff remove artillery from the Gaza Strip and not risk having to take responsibility for innocents being harmed.
Silvan Shalom (Likud) said Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz are only trying to preserve their seats in the Knesset, and that the ceasefire, along with the prime minister's speech, did not contribute to Israel's security.
According to Shalom, the break in the fighting is allowing Hamas to organize and get new weapons, and Olmert to try and win back the public's faith.
Peretz warns PA to enforce truce
"We want to give the cease-fire a chance," Peretz said Tuesday morning, as he toured the separation barrier in the Jerusalem area. However, he added, "It's obvious that there are extremist factions who are interested in dragging the region back to escalation. If the situation continues, we will have to consider how to respond, and to respond with severity."
Referring to the Palestinian Authority, he said "those whom commit to the cease-fire must know to enforce it as well, and any violation will receive a fierce response."
Peretz stressed that the cease-fire does not apply to the West Bank, and that the IDF fight against armed groups there would continue.
"Our basic understandings are that the cease-fire is on the Gaza Strip alone. When we reach some form of understanding on stopping the terrorist activity that is taking place here, we will consider how IDF forces will be used."
Militants identifying themselves as members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the military wing of Fatah, took responsibility for the Qassam fire Monday. Security sources said the group appears to be an independent offshoot of Fatah, and that the PA's leadership and security forces are making a noticeable effort to prevent rocket fire.
When the cease-fire first took effect Sunday morning, forces were strictly forbidden from firing. Thus when seven militants were seen launching a rocket at Sderot, the IDF held its fire. But as it became evident that the rocket fire was continuing, albeit on a smaller scale, the IDF changed the rules in order to prevent Israeli civilians from being harmed.
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