Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told Monday Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee members that Israel, at this stage, will not respond militarily to Palestinian resistance shillings of Israeli Gaza Strip settlements.Ã‚Â
‘The government’s policy at this stage is not to retaliate, and to give Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas a chance.’ Mofaza said.
According to Israeli army sources, since the killing of three Palestinian children by Israeli soldiers on Saturday, Palestinian resistance has fired some 80 mortar rounds at Gaza Strip settlements, damaging several houses.
Mofaz told committee members that he Ã¢â‚¬Å“made it clearÃ¢â‚¬Â to Abbas in a phone conversation that Israel could not ignore the mortar fire and that the PA needs to act decisively to put an end to the shelling.
Mofaz also demanded that the PA deploy police forces along the Gaza Strip seam lines, which separates Palestinian communities from settlements.
‘If you don’t act soon, the Sharm understandings could crash,’ Mofaz said he had told Abbas.Ã‚Â
MofazÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s threatening tone triggered harsh Palestinian reactions.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Let us make it clear that we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t work for MofazÃ¢â‚¬Â said a senior PA official. Ã¢â‚¬Å“President Abbas moves on the bases of Palestinian best interestsÃ¢â‚¬Â he added.
From their side, Palestinian resistance groups said that they were still committed to the Ã¢â‚¬Å“calm periodÃ¢â‚¬Â, but warned that Ã¢â‚¬Å“each Israeli violation will be faced with one from our side.Ã¢â‚¬ÂÃ‚Â
Contrary to strong statements made by Mofaz and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, accusing Abbas with doing nothing to restore calm in the Gaza Strip, the head of the Israeli army research division, Brigadier General Yossi Kuperwasser, told the Knesset committee members that Abbas was in fact making an effort to halt mortar fire on Israeli territory.
Kuperwasser pointed finger at Hezbollah, telling law makers that army holds intelligence reports indicating that the Lebanese based party is making efforts to carry out attacks across the northern borders and inside the Palestinian territories.
‘Tension along the northern border is high and we are preparing for all options. Fire could be opened any moment there.’ He said.
Kuperwasser statements contradict earlier army assessment that there has been a decrease in Hezbollah’s efforts to encourage Palestinian groups to carry out attacks in the West Bank.