Israel Strikes Hamas But Sees No Quick Fix

Israeli police officers scuffle with protesting residents of Sderot as the Minister of Internal Affairs Roni Bar-On, third right, leaves following the funeral of an Israeli woman killed on Monday by a rocket fired from Gaza, Tuesday, May 22, 2007.
Israeli air strikes Tuesday targeted two camps used by the Islamic militant group Hamas, one day after a Palestinian rocket attack killed a woman in southern Israel, and Israeli leaders suggested even the Palestinian premier could be targeted in reprisal strikes.

But Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert acknowledged there's no quick solution for the rocket barrages coming from the Gaza Strip.

That didn't sit well in the Israeli border town of Sderot after a 31-year-old woman was killed in a Palestinian rocket attack, reports .

"This government has done nothing!" shouted one resident. "This country should be ashamed! They are caving in to terror!"

The residents want a major military operation in Gaza, but the Israeli government has opted for limited air strikes for now.

Hamas officials said there were no casualties in Tuesday's attack, but one of the air strikes destroyed a building used by its private militia in Gaza, known as the "Executive Force."

In other developments:

  • Norway said Monday it would make its first transfer of direct aid — $10 million — to the Palestinians' new government, more than two months after the Nordic country broke with most Western nations by recognizing the Hamas-led coalition. "I urge others to follow," Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said. "We need to demonstrate that we are ready to engage, politically and financially" with the Palestinian government.
  • The U.S. ambassador to Israel on Monday said the United States is not pressuring Israel to rebuff Syrian offers of peace negotiations, denying reports that Washington has been urging Israel to shun Syria. Ambassador Richard Jones' comments came as the Haaretz newspaper reported that the U.S. has reversed its position and given Israel the green light to talk to Syria. Jones said the U.S. and Israel independently oppose talks with Syria for the same reasons.
  • Jones apologized Tuesday for comments about convicted Pentagon spy Jonathan Pollard, saying they were "misinformed and misleading." Speaking at an academic conference Monday, the U.S. ambassador to Israel said the U.S. had been lenient by not executing the former Pentagon analyst. In a statement released by the U.S. Embassy Tuesday, Jones said his comments were "misinformed and misleading" and "did not reflect my personal views nor those of the Bush Administration."

    The moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas planned to head to Gaza later Tuesday in hopes of restoring a cease-fire, officials said. However, Israeli and Palestinian officials accused each other of undermining truce efforts — raising the likelihood of further fighting.

    After Monday's night's deadly rocket strike, Israeli defense officials said the army would step up its attacks on Palestinian militants, warning that Hamas' top leaders, including Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, could be in danger.

    "They are just terrorists in suits. This doesn't exonerate him," Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh told Israel Radio. "There is no one in the leading, commanding circle of Hamas who has immunity."

    The defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media, said there were no immediate plans for a large-scale ground operation in Gaza.

    Leaders of Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in Gaza already have taken a series of precautions to avoid Israeli attacks.

    After a six-month lull, Israel resumed its air strikes on militant targets in Gaza last Wednesday in response to nonstop rocket attacks. More than 40 Palestinians, most of them militants, have been killed.

    But the Israeli attacks have failed to halt the dozens of rockets falling on Sderot, a town of 24,000 residents less than one mile from Gaza.

    Seven more rockets were fired Tuesday, lightly wounding two people, the army said. Israel responded with two air strikes on suspected weapons depositories in Gaza. Palestinian security officials said there were no injuries.

    Late Monday, a rocket hit a car, killing a 31-year-old woman who was standing nearby, police said. The woman was the first Israeli killed in a Qassam rocket attack since November.

    Following Monday's attack, Olmert rushed to Sderot for the second time in a week to try to calm residents.