Agence France Presse (AFP)
August 6, 2008 - 2:16pm

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel will go back to carrying out military strikes on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip despite a month-old truce, army radio reported Tuesday. "Those who miss the operations in the Gaza Strip, don't worry, they will come," Barak told a Labor party event in Occupied Jerusalem.

A spokesman for Hamas, which seized power in Gaza in June 2007 after winning legislative elections in early 2006, called the remarks "ridiculous" and said the Islamist movement was "prepared for all options."

Barak's remarks "reflect the state of confusion of the Israeli occupation in dealing with Hamas and the Gaza Strip, and the vacillation between an aggressive escalation and the truce," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP.

In June, Israel agreed to an Egyptian-brokered truce with Palestinian militants in Gaza that has virtually halted rocket and mortar attacks launched from the impoverished territory on southern Israel.

But Israeli officials remain wary of the deal and claim Gaza's Hamas rulers and other armed groups are using the calm to train and rearm with weapons smuggled through a vast network of tunnels under the border with Egypt.

Israel had also said the truce depended on progress in releasing Gilad Shalit, an Israeli corporal seized by Gaza militants in a deadly cross-border raid on June 25, 2006.

Israel's army chief said Monday the military knows Shalit's location and the identity of his captors, raising the possibility that Israel could seek to extract him through military means.

The army later insisted that General Gabi Ashkenazi meant only that Israel knew Shalit was being held by Hamas in Gaza.

Israeli officials have in the past ruled out a rescue mission, saying Shalit's exact location was unclear and such an operation would be extremely risky.

Israel and Hamas have been holding indirect negotiations through Egyptian mediation on a prisoner swap expected to include the release of hundreds of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons in exchange for Shalit. - AFP


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