Jersualem Israel moved closer to invading Gaza, saying Thursday it had wrapped up preparations for a broad offensive after Palestinian militants fired about 100 rockets and mortar shells across the border in two days.
Israel’s foreign minister brushed off a call for restraint from Egypt’s president, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made a direct appeal to Gaza’s people to pressure their leaders to stop the barrages. But the attacks showed no signs of ending. By nightfall, three rockets and 15 mortar shells had exploded in Israel.
Olmert issued his appeal in a rare interview with the Arabic language satellite channel al-Arabiya, saying Israel would not hesitate to respond with force if the attacks continued.
“I am telling them now, it may be the last minute, I’m telling them stop it. We are stronger,” he said.
Thursday’s rocket fire was far less than the barrage of 80 rockets the previous day, and there were no reports of injuries. But Israeli leaders said the continued fire — the most intense since Egypt brokered a cease-fire last June — was unacceptable.