Israeli PM Warns of ‘Heavy Price’ for Rocket Attacks From Gaza; U.S. Response Unclear

November 14, 2012 - 5:50 AM

Gaza rocket fire

Smoke trails of rockets fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip towards Israel during an earlier round of attacks, last month. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

(Update: Israeli jets bombed a series of targets across Gaza City Wednesday, shortly after the Israelis killed Ahmed Jabari, Hamas' top military commander. Israel says the airstrikes are the beginning of a broader operation, launched in response to days of heavy rocket fire from Gaza.)

(CNSNews.com) – Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned Tuesday night that he would chose the time to inflict the “highest possible price” in response to days of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

But in Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner could not say whether the department had taken up the matter with governments that have ties to Hamas.

“Whoever thinks that he can routinely attack the daily lives of the residents of the south without paying a heavy price is mistaken,” Netanyahu told the heads of local councils in southern Israel – the area most vulnerable to attacks from Gaza.

“I am responsible for choosing the right time to exact the highest possible price and so it will be.”

In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. condemns the rocket attacks, adding, “I’m not sure diplomatically if we’re engaged with the Egyptians on this.” Toner said he would see what he could find out about any diplomatic conversations that may have taken place.

“I’m not sure if we’ve – I can – what I can find out for you is if we’ve expressed our concerns through other governments, but I’m not sure we would even discuss the – our contents of our diplomatic conversations,” he said.

Hamas is the Palestinian branch of Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood. Others with friendly ties to Hamas include Turkey’s Islamist government and Qatar, whose emir last month became the first head of state to visit Gaza since Hamas seized control there in 2007.

According to the Israeli Defense Forces, 123 rockets launched in Gaza have hit Israel since Saturday. Israeli planes in response had hit targets including launching sites and weapons storage facilities, a spokesman said.

“The IDF will not tolerate any attempt to harm Israeli civilians, and will operate against anyone who uses terror against the State of Israel. The Hamas terror organization is solely responsible for any terrorist activity emanating from the Gaza Strip.”

According to the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, seven Palestinians have been killed in Israeli strikes in Gaza since Saturday, including one Hamas and two Islamic Jihad fighters.

Israeli media reported that eight Israeli civilians were wounded in rocket attacks, and another four soldiers were wounded when a missile hit their jeep.

Netanyahu told a meeting of foreign ambassadors Monday that one million people face a situation in which an alarm gives them 30 seconds to find shelter before a rocket hits, launched by people who are “hiding behind civilians, while firing on civilians, firing on our children.”

“I don’t know of any of your governments who could accept such a thing,” he told the envoys. “I don’t know of any of the citizens of your cities, who could find that acceptable.”

In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood released a statement Tuesday accusing Israel of “killing innocent people – following the only bloody policy it knows.”

“If Israeli leaders think that Arabs and Muslims are too preoccupied with internal problems and political troubles to care for their most important issue, the cause of Palestine, they are certainly deluded,” the statement said.

“Palestine is dear to us as the blood that runs in our veins. We would sacrifice all we have before accepting Israeli assaults on its good people and holy, blessed land.”

The Brotherhood called on all Egyptians to join it in protests after Friday prayers this week, in “condemnation of the Israeli attacks, and declaring full support for the Palestinian resistance.”

Heightened tensions in southern Israel coincide with an alert in the north, where a mortar shell fired from Syria landed Monday near an IDF post in the Golan Heights.

The IDF acknowledged that the mortar firing had taken place “as part of the internal conflict inside Syria,” but warned it would not tolerate a repeat and fired warning shots in reply, reportedly the first time that has occurred since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

“We are closely monitoring what is happening and will respond appropriately,” said Netanyahu. “We will not allow our borders to be violated or our citizens to be fired upon.”