Israeli cabinet greets 70-missile barrage from Gaza with more “restraint”

After several hours of debate, the senior ministers decided to let the defense authorities determine the timing and form of Israel’s response to the heaviest Palestinian blitz it has ever sustained and to coordinate this response with Egypt.
Hamas owned up to the massive blitz of 70 missile and mortar rounds, including long-range Grad rockets, which hit Israel in an uninterrupted stream from Tuesday night to midday Wednesday, Dec. 24. Their radius extended north to Ashkelon and east to Netivot, leaving a trail of 57 shock victims – half children – and wrecked homes, vehicles, shops and roads. A five-missile volley hit Sderot and three mortar shells destroyed farm buildings in the Eshkol region.
The Israeli military made no effort to halt the attacks Wednesday, but a fleet of 200 ambulances is standing by in the battered south west, and 30 new locations, including the towns of Ashdod and Ofakim, were connected to the siren alert system against missile attack.
Israel’s security cabinet convened amid the firing to debate military options for stamping out the aggression from the Gaza Strip. Until now, Defense minister Ehud Barak has fought down demands for immediate military action from several ministers’ and almost every other quarter. He has opted for using Egypt’s good offices to negotiate another “ceasefire” with the Hamas regime like the one which expired this month after repeated Hamas violations.
Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak invited Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni to meet him in Cairo Thursday for talks on the Gaza crisis.
Israeli children in the targeted locations are confined to their homes; some are spending the Hannuka holiday away from their families in other parts of the country.
The Gaza crossings were ordered closed until the Palestinians hold their fire; supply trucks were turned back.
However, Egypt broke the blockade Wednesday by inviting any country wishing to help the Gaza population to direct aid through its territory.
Former national security adviser Giora Eiland urged the government in a radio interview to start treating the Gaza Strip as a neighboring hostile state and hold its Hamas regime responsible for the insupportable missile aggression. Israel must fight back – not just against the missile teams, but go for the belligerent Palestinian government’s infrastructure, even if 100 civilians are killed every day, because this would finally give Hamas a strong incentive to live in peace instead of making war.

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