Israeli Defense Minister, Shaul Mofaz, issued direct orders to the army to kill any Palestinian who attempts to fire at Israeli settlements or military camps in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli Radio reported on Thursday afternoon that Mofaz placed the blame of the escalating events on Hamas, and charged that the Palestinian Authority is not doing enough efforts to control the situation in the Gaza Strip.

 “Hamas seeks to escalate the situation, and is trying to create an internal conflict in the P.A”, Mofaz said.

The Israeli decision came after 45 shells were fired at Gaza Strip settlements and six shells south of Israel, the shells were fired in retaliation to the assassination of two Hamas members on Thursday.

The Israeli online daily Maariv reported that the Israeli military intelligence reported that Hamas does not intend to break the truce, and that the movement is not interested in any deterioration of the situation because “the truce politically serves Hamas”.

Meanwhile, the Israeli online daily Haaretz reported that the chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Likud MK Yuval Steinitz, called on Sharon to launch a military operation in the Gaza Strip similar to the “defensive Shield operation” carried in the West Bank in 2002.

Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ze’ev Boim, said that Israel “should respond with greater forcefulness”, and claimed that the government has been restraining itself from conducting wide scaled military operations.