Israeli forces killed 15 Palestinian terrorists in a series of air strikes on Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip overnight Wednesday and Thursday morning in response to the ongoing Arab rocket attacks.
Among the targets was the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Interior Ministry building Gaza City. Palestinian sources claimed that in addition to the eliminated terrorists, an Arab child was killed and at least 30 other people wounded in the Israeli raids.
Israeli army officials responded that Israel had no intention of harming civilians, and that their blood is on the hands of the Hamas terrorists who flaunt international law by operating out of civilian areas.
Speaking to reporters in Tokyo following a meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the army would continue to strike at Gaza's terrorist infrastructure until peace and security is achieved for the residents of southern Israel.
During his meeting with Rice, Mr. Olmert said the ongoing Palestinian rocket attacks were "testing our patience and bringing us to the limits of our tolerance."
Despite his statement that Israel's response to Wednesday's Arab assault would be particularly harsh, Mr. Olmert steered clear of approving the kind of large-scale ground invasion of Gaza that military experts continue to say is the only way to effectively curb the rocket attacks.
In her statement to the press, Rice strongly urged Israel to avoid using the kind of overwhelming force - especially a broad ground operation - that could bring it victory over the Gaza terrorists.
The Bush Administration remains determined to oversee a final status Israeli-Palestinian peace deal by the end of this year, and fears an escalation of violence in and around Gaza would harm its chances of achieving that goal.