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Israel Rules Out Major Offensive in Gaza Despite Rocket Attacks

05 September 2007

Israel is backing away from a broad military response to Palestinian rocket attacks that have terrified a border town. But as Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, it is considering tougher sanctions on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert convened his security Cabinet after Palestinian rocket attacks disrupted the beginning of the school year in the southern town of Sderot near the Gaza border. But despite calls by Sderot residents for a major army offensive against militants in Gaza, the Cabinet ruled that out.

Israeli military analyst Hirsch Goodman says that is a wise decision, considering the likelihood of high casualties among soldiers and civilians.

"The cost would be very, very high in relation to what you're going to achieve, you wouldn't be able to stay there very, very long, and I think that a large invasion would just take a heavy toll and would be a mistake," he said.

The Cabinet did, however, approve limited military action against Palestinian militants involved in rocket attacks.

"I think what will continue are more surgical strikes. What you've got to do is you've got to make it painful for them," said Goodman.

Israel is also considering cutting off electricity and fuel supplies to Gaza if the rocket attacks continue.

But Haled Abu Hilal, an independent Palestinian politician in Gaza, says that will only lead to more violence.

He told Israel Radio the reason for the rocket fire is that Israel has closed its borders with Gaza and the people are desperate.

Israel has imposed trade sanctions on Gaza since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power from the more moderate Fatah faction in a civil war two months ago. Abu Hilal said that as long as Gaza faces growing shortages in food and supplies and increasing unemployment, the rockets will keep falling.

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