Israel Will Not Accept Reality of Gaza Rocket Fire, Netanyahu Says

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Israel would not accept the ongoing rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, telling a group of foreign reporters: "The world needs to understand that Israel has the right and duty to defend its citizens."

"We will act to stop the rocket fire," Netanyahu told a press conference, as the recent escalation of cross-border violence surged into a third day. "If an alarm is sounded, people in southern Israel- one million people - have 15 seconds to find shelter. I don't know if any of your governments will accept this reality. I cannot accept this."

Palestinian militants fired some 10 rockets at Israel over the course of the day, bringing to approximately 110 the number launched since Saturday.

The Iron Dome intercepted two Grad rockets heading for Ashkelon on Sunday, while a Qassam exploded in a residential yard in the southern city of Netivot and another scored a direct hit on a factory in its industrial zone. Three people have been wounded in the attacks since Saturday, and 20 more have been treated for shock.

The Iron Dome intercepted two more rockets during the latest escalation, one aimed at Be'er Sheva on Sunday, and one fired toward the Ashdod area the previous day.

The morning attacks brought an end to the brief overnight lull, as Egyptian intelligence officials tried to mediate a cease-fire between the two sides. The Israel Defense Forces have responded to the rocket fire with nine strikes on the Gaza Strip, killing at least five Palestinians and wounding dozens more.

The rocket barrage that began on Saturday followed an earlier anti-tank missile attack on an IDF jeep near the border with Gaza, which wounded four soldiers. The IDF responded to the jeep attack with shelling on the Gaza Strip, killing four Palestinians and wounding 36.

Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon warned Monday that Israel would toughen its response to the rocket fire, reiterating remarks made by Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak over the last few days.

Israel has "a full box of tools ... that we have not yet used," Ya'alon told Army Radio. "We will need to toughen our response until Hamas says 'enough' and ends the fire."

Yaalon admitted there was no "bang and we're done" solution and declined to say if Israel would return to a former policy of targeted killings of Gaza leaders.

"I am not calling for any one thing specifically," he said.

The European Union on Monday urged Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip to halt their fire.

European High Representative Catherine Ashton said Monday that she was "very concerned by the latest escalation of violence between Gaza and Israel."

"I condemn the firing of rockets and mortars into Israel, and call on both sides to refrain from exacerbating the situation. Further regrettable loss of life and injury must be avoided," Ashton said.

"I support the mediation efforts by Egypt and reiterate that there is no place for violence in the Middle East. It is only through resumed negotiations that the legitimate aspirations of both Palestinians and Israelis will be met, through a two-state solution," she added.

Egypt has been trying to broker a cease-fire between the Palestinian factions and Israel, a Palestinian official with knowledge of the contacts told Reuters. No deadline has yet been set for the commencement of cease-fire.

"Nothing has yet been formalized. Israel and Hamas kept their old positions. Calm will be met with calm and escalation with escalation," the official said.

Speaking at a meeting of foreign envoys, attended by Netanyahu in the southern city of Ashkelon, Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter said later on Monday that Israel "can't continue to accept a situation where the military terror entity called Gaza continues to exist between Israel and Egypt."

"11,000 rockets have been fired in the last decade," Dichter said, adding: "This isn't a terror organization any more, it's a bona fide army. What other country in the world would continue to experience and contain such a threat to a fifth of its population?"

Referring to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the minister said that Abbas' "silence proves again that we're in a three-state reality. Israel is going to have to reshape its deterrence with Gaza in a move that would leave no doubt."

An Israeli soldier stands next to a house damaged by a rocket fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip after landed in Kfar Aza, southern Israel, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012.Credit: AP

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