Israel mulls reoccupation of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip

JERUSALEM, June 30 (PNA/Xinhua) — Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday proposed that Israel should consider re-occupying the Gaza Strip in response to recent rocket fire from the Hamas-controlled enclave on southern Israel.

“We need to decide whether we are going to choose the alternative, which is the full occupation of the strip,” Lieberman told Army Radio on Sunday. “We have seen that limited action only strengthens Hamas and therefore the alternative is clear.”

The Israel Air Force struck targets in the Gaza Strip twice over the weekend in response to recent rocket fire from Gaza.

On Saturday night, a plastics factory in Sderot, an Israeli town near the border with Gaza, was hit by one of the salvos and subsequently burned to the ground, leaving three factory workers injured.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that it had targeted weapon manufacturing sites, underground rocket launchers and “centers of terrorist activity” located in different areas of the strip. In a related development, the IDF said its forces had arrested another 18 Palestinians on Saturday in continued operations in the West Bank that aims to retrieve three missing Israeli teenagers.

Israeli security forces have detained more than 500 Palestinians, mostly Hamas members, since it launched Operation Brother’s Keeper to search for the youths who were abducted two weeks ago. The Israeli government accused Hamas of being behind the abduction, which Hamas has strongly denied.

At Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again urged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to annul the national unity government deal between Hamas and the Fatah movement, saying it is clear that if Abbas wants to move the peace process forward, he needs to dissolve his pact with Hamas.

Hamas refuses to recognize the state of Israel and is listed by Israel as a “terror” organization. Israel unilaterally withdrew its troops and Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005 under a disengagement plan of then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Hamas seized the territory in 2007 after a bloody conflict with Fatah. The enclave has since been under a land, air and sea blockade imposed by Israel. (PNA/Xinhua)