Israel vows to ‘liquidate’ Gaza’s Hamas rulers 28Mar10 March 29, 2010

Finance minister says Israel will not tolerate Hamas continuing to strengthen itself militarily.

Middle East Online -  28 March 2010


JERUSALEM – A senior minister on Sunday warned that Israel would “liquidate” the Islamist Hamas-run government in Gaza following deadly weekend clashes that killed two Israeli soldiers.

“Sooner or later we will liquidate the military regime of the pro-Iranian Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip,” Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, from the governing rightwing Likud party, told public radio.

“I am not setting a timetable, but we will not tolerate this regime continuing to strengthen itself militarily and providing itself with an arsenal of rockets that threaten our territory,” he added.

An Israeli officer and soldier were killed over the weekend in the deadliest clashes since Israel’s 22-day offensive in Gaza launched in December 2008.

That war killed some 1,400 Palestinians and flattened entire neighbourhoods in Gaza, leaving thousands of people homeless. Thirteen Israelis were killed during the fighting.

When asked whether Israel may launch a new invasion of the territory, Steinitz replied: “We have no choice.”

The Islamist Hamas movement — which is pledged to Israel’s destruction and blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by the West — seized power in Gaza in June 2007 after routing forces loyal to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

The 2008-2009 war largely succeeded in its aim of halting years of near-daily rocket attacks on southern Israel, but recently there has been a rise in attacks, and a Thai labourer was killed earlier this month.

Israel restricts West Bank access

Israel will restrict access to the occupied West Bank starting late Sunday ahead of the week-long Jewish Passover holiday, the military said.

Checkpoints will be closed to general traffic, though medical cases, humanitarian aid, and professionals and students with permits will be able to cross, it said in a statement.

The closures will be lifted on Tuesday, April 6.

The Passover holiday, during which Jews commemorate their biblical exodus from Egypt, will last for seven days beginning on Monday at sunset.

Israel usually restricts access to the West Bank during Jewish holidays and has stepped up such efforts in recent months as other holidays have seen clashes erupt in and around Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound.

In September and again earlier this month dozens of people were wounded when violence broke out following rumours that Jewish extremists intended to pray at the compound, which was the location of the Second Jewish Temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD and is considered Judaism’s holiest site.

The same wide esplanade is the third holiest site in Islam, and Muslims are intensely sensitive to any perceived change in its status quo. The compound is open to tourists of all faiths, but only Muslims can pray there.

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