Israel to Continue Fighting 'Terror in Gaza' Despite Hamas Ceasefire Plea

After briefing on Sunday, cabinet decides to instruct IDF to continue to work against terror in Gaza in order to stop the rocket fire which continues to pound Israel's southern region.

Israel has decided to continue to "work against terrorism in Gaza," despite Hamas' call for a ceasefire, Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser said on Sunday.

The political-security cabinet convened earlier in the day in order to discuss the current situation with Gaza. After being briefed on the latest developments, the cabinet decided to instruct the Israel Defense Forces and security officials to "continue to work against terrorism in Gaza in order to stop the firing on Israel and return quiet to southern Israel," Hauser said.

Rocket fired towards Israel - Reuters - April 9, 2011

During the meeting, the cabinet also approved a nation-wide home front defense drill called "Turning Point 5" which will take place in a few weeks.

Earlier on Sunday, Hamas made a rare direct appeal to the Israeli public to halt the current round of cross-border fighting, after a weekend of deadly violence that left 19 Palestinians dead.

"We are interested in calm but want the Israeli military to stop its operations," Hamas Deputy Foreign Minister Ghazi Hamad said in an interview on Israel Radio, adding that the group would cease its rocket attacks if Israel halted its military operations against Gaza militants.

Several mortar shells landed in Israel on Sunday, following a weekend during which over 120 rockets and mortars were fired at southern Israeli communities. Residents of the south have spent the past several nights in reinforced rooms.

Israel had no immediate comment on the Hamas appeal for a ceasefire.

"What happens from here on is up to the other side," an Israeli official told reporters in Tel Aviv, speaking on condition of anonymity. "It seems calmer now, but it is still not clear where this is going."

"We will judge the other side over the next few days. The extent to which Hamas controls the other militant groups will affect the way we choose to act," the Israeli official added.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Sunday to respond "most harshly" if Palestinian militants continued to fire rockets and mortar shells at Israel.

"The Israel Defense Forces hit Hamas and the terrorist organization hard over the weekend," Netanyahu told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. "If attacks against Israeli civilians and the IDF continue, the response will be most harsh."