Olmert appeals for an end to rocket attacks

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The Independent Online

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, yesterday issued what he said was a "last-minute" appeal to Palestinians to prevent the militant Hamas movement from firing rockets at Israel, warning that otherwise he would unleash the Jewish state's military power in Gaza.

"We do not want to fight against the Palestinian people, but we will not let Hamas harm our children. Can I allow more missiles against the residents of Israel?" asked Mr Olmert in an interview with the Dubai-based al-Arabiya satellite television station. Mr Olmert said as long as he remained Prime Minister his intention would be to reach peace with Palestinians but that Hamas "must be stopped".

"I say to you in a last minute call: stop this," he said. Mr Olmert's warning was echoed by his Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, and the Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, who was in Cairo yesterday to discuss the situation with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Israel's security cabinet on Wednesday approved military steps in Gaza, according to media reports, but officials said the decisions were classified.

Since last Friday, more than 200 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza have landed in Israel, causing a few slight injuries. Six militants have been killed during the same period.

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