Israeli Army Chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi said on Sunday that the Israeli army would operate in Gaza if the resistance factions do not halt the firing of homemade shells into Israeli settlements adjacent to the Gaza Strip.Ashkenazi stated that “Israel would have no other alternative but to take action”, Israeli online daily Haaretz reported,

He also said that a major ground offensive “would be necessary” in order to stop the firing of homemade shells.

During the weekly cabinet session on Sunday, Ashkenazi stated that he would also present a number of other alternatives to the government.

Palestinian resistance factions resumed recently the firing of homemade shells after the Israeli army carried several assassinations and invasions into the occupied territories.

Meanwhile, Israeli military sources claimed that resistance fighters in Gaza fired nearly 250 homemade shells into Israeli areas adjacent the to the Gaza Strip since the truce came into effects some five months ago, Haaretz said.

Ashkenazi stated that Palestinian factions increased their “rocket fire during the Israeli Independence day last week.

Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, said during the cabinet session that Israel “cannot ignore the Palestinian attempted infiltrations and attacks” and that although Israel does not want an escalation in Gaza, “it would be forced to operate if these attacks continue”.

Olmert did not specify any practical measures that would be taken by Israel, but ruled out a major military offensive.

Commenting on the situation on the northern border with Lebanon, Ashkenazi stated that Hezbollah is attempting to reestablish its presence in southern Lebanon, especially south of the Litani River.   

 He also claimed that the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the Lebanese army present in this area remained incapable of barring Hezbollah fighters from reaching it.

 Moreover, Ashkenazi also claimed that the Lebanese government and its prime minster, Fuad Siniora, took limited action against the Syrian rearmament of Hezbollah.

He further claimed that Syria is planning to carry an attack against Israel this summer, and that the Syrian army is deployed in a defensive formation in preparation of any Israeli attack.

On Saturday, three Palestinians were killed during an Israeli shelling to the Gaza Strip, and nine more Palestinians were killed last week in Jenin, Nablus, and Gaza.

Palestinian resistance factions vowed retaliation to the Israeli attacks and assassinations, and considered these assaults as a death sentence to the fragile truce.