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Israel Calls for International Effort to End Weapons Flow to Hamas

22 May 2007

Israeli officials have called for an international effort end what they describe as the anarchy in the Palestinian territories. They also threatened further retaliation for Palestinian rocket attacks that killed an Israeli woman, late Monday, in southern Israel. VOA's Jim Teeple reports Israeli air strikes against militant targets in the Gaza Strip have killed more than 30 Palestinians, in the past few days.

Israeli officials say they will step up their attacks against Palestinian militants, if the Qassam rocket attacks against southern Israel do not stop.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz says, for the time being, Israel is holding back from launching a major ground invasion of Gaza. However, he says the international community must do more to end what he describes as "anarchy" and the collapse of the Palestinian Authority.

Foreign ministry spokesman Mark Regev says Israel wants the international community to do more to stop weapons from reaching the Gaza Strip.

"This is an intolerable situation and it has to stop. But no one can doubt the fact that it is not just the Qassams [rockets] themselves. There is the larger issue of the import into the Gaza Strip of illicit weapons, including missiles, anti-tank, anti-aircraft, explosives and so forth," he said. "What we are talking to the international community about is to beef up [strengthen] the international border, from Egyptian Sinai into Gaza. That must be part of any understanding."

About 80 European Union security personnel monitor the Gaza-Egypt border, but they have little enforcement authority and, on several occasions, have had to leave their posts because of violence.

Meanwhile, some Israeli politicians continue to call for targeting leading Hamas figures for assassination, if the rocket attacks continue. Saeb Erekat a close aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says Israel needs to stop its attacks in Gaza, saying Palestinians are also trying to stop the Qassam attacks.

"I urge the Israeli government to stop such attacks and, from our side, we are doing everything possible to insure that we sustain a cessation of all sorts of violence including the firing of Qassams, howitzers and anything else," said Erekat. "Violence will destroy any attempt to revive the peace process.

Heavy factional fighting between Hamas and Fatah forces in Gaza, which led to the current crisis, has largely subsided, in the past few days.

Israel and Palestinian militant groups had been observing a largely successful ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, since last November.

Hamas officials have said they would stop the Qassam attacks against Israel, if the ceasefire was extended to the West Bank. Israeli officials have rejected the overture, saying Hamas would use any ceasefire to rearm.

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