Israel responds to rocket attacks
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Israel responds to rocket attacks

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Air Force struck several targets in Gaza in reponse to new rocket barrages on southern Israel.

Earlier Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel would launch a "disproportionate" response to the new rocket fire on the country’s southern border.

The targets of Israel’s retalitory strike included six smuggling tunnels and a Hamas outpost, according to a statement from the Israel Defense Forces spokesman.

As the sole authority in the Gaza Strip, Hamas bears full responsibility for all terrorism originating within its area of control," the statement said.

Israel had sent telephone warnings to civilians in the area to vacate before the strikes, according to reports.

Two Israeli soldiers and one civilian were injured Sunday afternoon after five mortar shells were fired from Gaza at the western Negev. Later Sunday evening, a Kassam rocket was fired from Gaza into the western Negev.

At least four Kassam rockets were fired from Gaza into the western Negev shortly before 7 a.m. Sunday. One of the rockets landed between two kindergartens, according to reports. Four mortar shells were launched later in the morning but caused no damage.

Also Sunday morning, Palestinian gunmen fired on Israeli soldiers near the border fence close to the Kissufim crossing. The soldiers returned fire; there were no injuries.

A long-range Grad rocket struck south of Ashkelon on Saturday morning. Residents were alerted with a Color Red siren.

Olmert addressed the renewed violence, in violation of a Jan. 18 cease-fire declared by Hamas following a unilateral cease-fire declared by Israel, at the beginning of Sunday’s regular Cabinet meeting.

Olmert said "the Cabinet’s position from the outset was that if firing continues against residents of the South, there would be a sharp Israeli response that would be disproportional  vis-a-vis the firing at residents of the State of Israel and at our forces. We will not go back to the rules of the game that the terrorist organizations tried to dictate in the past. We will act according to new rules that will ensure that we are not dragged into an unending shooting war on the southern border that denies southern residents a normal life."

The prime minister added, "I asked Defense Minister Ehud Barak to instruct the IDF, as his position requires, to prepare an Israeli response that is required by the circumstances that have been created as a result of this firing. Such an Israeli action and such an Israeli response will come at a time and place of our choosing. We will not warn the terrorist elements in advance as to how, where and when we will respond, but we will respond. This must be unequivocally clear."