Israeli jets hit Hamas target, killing 1

Dec. 24, 2008 at 9:40 PM
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JERUSALEM, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- Israeli fighter jets struck Hamas targets in Gaza Wednesday, killing one gunman in retaliation for Palestinian rocket volleys into Israel, officials said.

The air attack was the first Israeli response to the Islamic terror group's launching of more than 70 rockets into Israel. However, a stronger Israeli response likely will be forthcoming as Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak gave military leaders the green light to prepare for a move against Hamas, The Jerusalem Post reported.

"Our response will be substantial and painful to Hamas," an unnamed Israeli official told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Palestinian militants pounded Israel's Negev desert with Qassam rockets and mortar shells, officials said.

The barrage has hampered diplomatic efforts to revive a cease-fire between Israel and Islamic militants that expired last weekend, Haaretz reported.

Officials told one rocket hit a house in the Sdot Negev area while another hit a factory in the Eshkol area, causing heavy damage and shock in dozens of people.

Afterward, Barak told the military to cancel a planned transfer of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, rescinding a Tuesday decision to allow the delivery a limited amount of aid, the Web site said.

The al-Quds Brigades, the Islamic Jihad's military wing, claimed responsibility for the rocket fire, which came after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to discuss Egyptian efforts to resume the cease-fire.

Senior Israeli ministers have decided to let military officials determine the timing of Israel's response to the heaviest rocket blitz it has ever sustained from Gaza, and to coordinate its response with Egypt, the Israeli Web site reported.

Most strikes will come from the air and be aimed at strategically important facilities, Haaretz said.

"We are not eager to strike, but we will not hesitate to act," one official said. "If Hamas is looking for noise, we will make Gaza very noisy."

In a statement by Hamas' military wing, spokesman Iz al-Din al-Qassam warned that "thousands of additional Israelis will soon be within the range of our rockets if Israel continues with its aggression."

The Post reported its military sources said a major operation -- such as conquering the Gaza Strip -- was not on the agenda at this time.

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