Ahead of a Possible Ceasefire |

Palestinian Militant Groups to Meet in Gaza Amid Escalation With Israel

Meeting, called by Hamas, may discuss terms to put a stop to rocket fire; Netanyahu: Hamas is coordinating attacks between smaller terror organizations; Peres: World must defund Hamas.

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Gaza's militant groups will meet on Monday evening to discuss the recent military escalation along the border with Israel, Hamas officials indicated, in a consultation estimated to agree on the terms of a new ceasefire.

The meeting, scheduled to take place at 6 P.M. on Monday, comes amid renewed rock fire earlier in the day that was reportedly initiated by Jihadi factions without coordination with Hamas.

Referring to the recent string of rocket attacks during a meeting with foreign envoys in the southern city of Ashkelon on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that, while the smaller Gaza groups were executing the launches, Hamas was "encouraging the fire and coordinating it between the different organizations."

When asked by one of the ambassadors present how Israel intended to respond to Gaza fire, the premier said: "We have different options, but I'm not going to share them with you."

Speaking at the same conference, Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter said 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."

Also referring to conflicts along the Gaza border, President Shimon Peres told CNN that the world must cut off funding to Hamas as long as the group is targeting civilians in Israel, urging Qatar, who recently invested in the Coastal Enclave, to defund Hamas' government.

Palestinian militants fired some 10 rockets at Israel over the course of the day, bringing to approximately 115 the number launched since Saturday. An Iron Dome battery intercepted two rockets over the Negev town of Ofakim on Monday night.

On Sunday, Iron Dome missiles intercepted two Grad rockets heading for Ashkelon, 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.

Speaking earlier Monday, Netanyahu said 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."

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."

Ya'alon 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.

Tami Shadadi surveying the damage to her house in the southern town of Sderot November 12, 2012, after it was hit by a rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza on Sunday. Credit: Reuters
A security officer examining a Sderot factory that was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip by Palestinian militants on Nov. 11, 2012.Credit: AP



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