Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday angrily lashed out at the international community after the latter harshly criticized a weekend Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip while downplaying and even ignoring the Palestinian rocket fire that precipitated it.
Said Mr. Olmert at the start of Sunday’s cabinet meeting:
“Nobody has the right to preach morality to the State of Israel for taking basic action to defend itself and prevent hundreds of thousands of residents of the south from continuing to be exposed to incessant rocket firing that disrupts their lives.”
He noted that the same world leaders who are now condemning Israel’s retaliatory actions - including European leaders and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon - were conspicuously silent over the past months and years as Gaza-based Arab terrorists have forced the residents of southwestern Israel to live under siege conditions.
The prime minister went on to clarify that Israel “has no intention of halting counter-terrorism actions for even one second.”
Some 70 Palestinians were reportedly killed during clashes with Israeli incursion forces in northern Gaza on Saturday and Sunday. Palestinian sources claimed that of that number, 12 were unarmed civilians.
Israel maintains that any civilian casualties sustained during the fighting are the sole responsibility of the Palestinian terrorist forces that flout international law by operating out of civilian areas.
Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon and Defense Minister Ehud Barak also noted during the cabinet meeting that international law gives Israel the right to return fire on any position used by the terrorists to attack the Jewish state, including built-up Palestinian population centers.
Ramon insisted that if Israel is to bring an end to the incessant Palestinian rocket fire, sooner or later it will have to attack the civilian areas from which the terrorists are operating with far greater force.
In a more symbolic action, Israeli aircraft attacked and destroyed Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh’s office in Gaza City.
During the course of what is an ongoing operation in Gaza, two Israeli soldiers were killed and at least four others wounded.
The fierce Israeli incursion was launched in response to massive Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel late last week and over the weekend.
For years the Palestinians of Gaza have been attacking the southern Israel town of Sderot with locally-produced Kassam rockets. Those attacks continued throughout the past four days, with well over 100 Kassams striking Sderot and surrounding communities since Thursday morning, leaving at least a half dozen Israelis wounded and many more suffering from severe emotional distress.
The Palestinians also upped the ante by launching large barrages of Russian-made Katyusha missiles at the Israeli port city of Ashkelon, which lies about ten miles to the north of Gaza.
At least 30 Katyushas of the type used in great quantity against Israel by Lebanon’s Hizballah terrorist militia hit Ashkelon over the weekend. A further seven Israelis were wounded in the attacks on Ashkelon, and dozens more were treated for severe shock.
Ashkelon’s southern industrial zone is home to Israel’s largest electrical plant and a number of chemical storage facilities. Officials fear that a direct rocket hit on one of these facilities would result mass-casualty catastrophe.