Netanyahu warns Hamas not to test Israeli resolve

AP News
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Posted: Feb 24, 2011 1:15 PM
Netanyahu warns Hamas not to test Israeli resolve

Israel's prime minister said Thursday his country would not tolerate rocket attacks against its citizens and warned the Gaza Strip's Hamas rulers not to test his resolve.

Benjamin Netanyahu issued the threat a day after a Palestinian rocket struck the largest city in southern Israel for the first time since a bruising Israeli military offensive in Gaza two years ago.

Israel and Hamas have largely observed an unofficial cease-fire since then. But clashes sporadically flare up along the volatile border as Gaza militants fire rockets and mortars into Israel, drawing military reprisals.

In Wednesday night's attack, a rocket exploded in Beersheba, 20 miles (30 kilometers) from Gaza, damaging property but causing no casualties. Israel retaliated with airstrikes against Gaza, including one that wounded three Islamic Jihad militants.

Netanyahu said he instructed the military to respond to the attack against Beersheba.

"I wouldn't suggest anyone test our determination," he said. "We are determined to protect our citizens and we will not tolerate the bombardment of our cities and our citizens. No country would agree to something like this."

The deputy mayor of Beersheba, Heftsi Zohar, said a large explosion rocked the city late Wednesday night and it was "fortunate" that the only damage was to property.

"This missile clearly indicates the true intention of Hamas, to hurt innocent civilians," she said.

Israel's U.N. ambassador, Meron Reuben, urged the Security Council to "firmly condemn" the "clear escalation of terrorist activity emanating from the Gaza Strip."

The Security Council is scheduled to hold its monthly meeting on the Middle East on Thursday.

No Palestinian group took responsibility for the rocket attack.

After nightfall Thursday, Hamas officials said Israeli aircraft fired missiles at a vehicle in the southern Gaza Strip, killing one person and wounding several others. The Israeli military said the targets were "terror operatives."

In the West Bank, there were demonstrations protesting the U.S. veto of a Security Council resolution calling Israeli settlements illegal. In Nablus, protesters burned two photos of President Barack Obama.

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Associated Press Writers Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank and Edith M. Lederer at the U.N. contributed to this report.