Olmert urges Gaza to reject Islamist Hamas

Olmert urges Gaza to reject Islamist Hamas

Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert urged Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Thursday to reject their Hamas rulers and said he would not hesitate in using force to stop them from firing rockets at southern Israel.

“I will not hesitate to use Israel’s might to strike Hamas and (Islamic) Jihad. How? I will not go into details now", Olmert said in an interview with Al Arabiya television, according to his office.

“Israel left Gaza about three years ago with no intention of returning," Olmert said in an appeal carried by the Arab news broadcaster.

“Is the spirit of Islam to kill innocent children, to fire rockets at kindergartens and civilians? I don’t think that is the spirit of Islam," Olmert was quoted as saying.

“That Hamas does this in opposition to the spirit of Islam is the main reason for your suffering, and our’s. I say to you in a last minute call, stop it. You, the residents of Gaza, can stop it."

In Cairo, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni discussed the crisis with her Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Aboul Gheit, who urged both sides to exercise restraint.

Fighting across the Gaza Strip border with Israel has escalated since a six-month truce brokered by Egypt expired last week.

The talks took place a day after Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired more than 80 rockets and mortars at southern Israel and Israel killed a Hamas gunman in an air strike.

Livni described the latest escalation as “unbearable".

Under the truce agreed in June, Hamas agreed to halt rocket fire in return for Israel easing a blockade that was tightened after the Islamist group seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007.