28/01/2009 Israeli occupation aircraft struck at tunnels used for smuggling goods and weapons on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt on Wednesday; hours before a US peace envoy was due to arrive in the Zionist entity.
The aircraft struck three times before dawn but there was no initial word of casualties.
An Israeli occupation army spokesman confirmed that Israel had carried out air strikes on smuggling tunnels in the town of Rafah.
The strike came after Tuesday’s violence in Gaza where resistance fighters attacked an Israeli military vehicle that was hit by a roadside bomb while patrolling the Gaza border, killing one occupation soldier and wounding three others, the army spokesman said.
There was no claim of responsibility for the attack, but Hamas leader Mushir al-Masri said Israel was to blame for continuing to fire into Gaza. Masri said his group had not agreed to a full cease-fire but only to a “lull” in fighting. “The Zionists are responsible for any aggression,” he said.
An air strike shortly afterwards killed one Palestinian on a motorcycle, and injured 2 others. The exchanges were the first major military developments since Hamas and Israel declared separate ceasefires earlier this month after Israel’s offensive against the Gaza Strip.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said late on Tuesday that the killing of the man on the motorcycle was only an initial reaction and that Israel’s full response was still to come.
The Israeli occupation army holds Hamas responsible for preserving the peace south of the occupied territories, and will respond harshly to any attempt at undermining it, the announcement added.
On Tuesday the occupation army had received a green light to respond harshly to the bomb attack, though defense officials would not provide details on the planned response, but said it would be in line with Israel’s new policy to respond aggressively to any attack following the end of “Operation Cast Lead” earlier this month.
Meanwhile, in a bid to regain her plummeting popularity ahead of the elections, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told a gathering of the New York-based World Jewish Congress in occupied Jerusalem on Tuesday that Israel would no longer show restraint against Palestinian attacks from the Gaza Strip.
“Israel is going to act according to a new equation. We are not going to show restraint anymore,” Livni said. “We need to change the rules of the game until they learn that the rules have changed and the equation has changed.”
Livni added that Israel needed to negotiate with the Fatah leadership in the occupation West Bank toward a two-state solution, while continuing to fight against Hamas in Gaza. “For me, an agreement with Hamas is not an option,” she declared.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called an urgent meeting of top defense officials after the bombing. “This is a serious attack, and we will respond, but there is no point in elaborating,” Barak said.
Israel closed its Gaza crossings to humanitarian aid traffic after briefly opening them Tuesday morning. Gaza border official Raed Fattouh said Israeli officials had informed him the closure was due to the attack.
Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security Bureau, said Israel’s response would not be limited to closing the crossings into Gaza. “The response will not be the way it used to be,” Gilad said in a speech at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. “The equation has changed.”