Leftist Meretz Issues Rare Call for Military Action Against Hamas

Meretz usually calls for talks with militants; Barak: Gaza militants will pay for hurting Israel's citizens.

The left-wing Meretz party on Thursday issued a rare call for military action against Hamas in order to bring an end to cross-border attacks on Israel by Gaza militants.

"The time has come to act without compromise and without narrow political considerations to protect the residents of Gaza-area communities and Sderot," the party relayed on Thursday.

Meretz, which usually calls for negotiation and dialogue with Palestinian militants, said the current escalation in rocket attacks has left Israel with no choice but to work on two fronts simultaneously.

"Strike Hamas in a targeted manner and work for a new cease-fire," it said.

The statement from Meretz came as the defense establishment was preparing for a military move against Hamas targets in Gaza, after the Islamist group launched more than 80 rockets into Israel on Wednesday.

The upsurge in violence also drew responses from Israel's political leadership on Thursday.

Defense Minister and Labor Chairman Ehud Barak warned that Israel will respond to attacks on its citizens.

"This is not the time for talk, [but] we cannot accept the situation that has been created. The single thing I can say this morning is that anyone who hurts Israel's citizens and Israel Defense Forces soldiers will pay the price," Barak said on Thursday.

Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tzahi Hanegbi, for his part, threatened Gaza militants with a response similar to Israel's 2006 invasion of Lebanon if they did not cease the attacks.

"If the Qassam [rocket] fire does not stop, the Israel Defense Forces will fight you with the same might with which it fought Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War," said Hanegbi (Kadima), speaking to Army Radio.