Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak
Source: Press TV
Israel has accused Gaza-based resistance fighters of involvement in the shooting attacks in southern Israel, threatening to launch a new attack on the coastal sliver.
On Thursday, gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying Israeli soldiers while a rocket was fired at another bus near the Red Sea resort of Eilat, near the Egyptian border.
The incident left at least six people dead and dozens more injured. The Israeli military claimed they had pursued the attackers and killed seven people in a gun battled with those involved in the attacks.
Immediately, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak claimed that the source of combined attacks was the Gaza Strip.
"This is a serious terror attack that took place in several locations," the Israeli paper Haaretz quoted Barak as saying on its website.
"The incident shows the weakening Egyptian grip on Sinai and the widening operation of terrorists there. The source of these terror acts is in Gaza and we will act against them with full force,” he went on to say.
The democratically elected Palestinian government, headed by the Gaza-based Hamas movement, strongly rejected any relation between the resistance fighters and the Thursday attacks.
"The Palestinian government denies the accusations made by Barak about the operation in Eilat and affirms that there is no relation between the Gaza Strip and what happened near Eilat," Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nunu told AFP.
Responding to Barak's war threat, senior Hamas member Salah al-Bardawil also stressed that the Islamic movement and the Palestinian people are not afraid of “Zionist threats” and will not “stand idly by if the enemy attacks.”
Bardawil further stated that Hamas relies on a strategy of resisting "the occupation of Palestinian lands from within, rather than from outside."
The Israeli saber-rattling comes as the blockaded Gaza Strip strives to meet its basic needs under a crippling Israeli siege, intensified since Hamas had to limit its rule to the coastal sliver in June 2007, following a coup plot by rival Fatah party.
On December 27, 2008, Israel launched a massive onslaught against Gaza and killed more than 1,400 Palestinians in 22 days of nonstop land, sea and air strikes.
The weeks-long war was tainted with UN-confirmed reports indicating the use of forbidden weaponry such as white phosphorus bombs by Israeli armed forces, among other war crimes raging from shooting unarmed civilians on the run, through the targeting of places known to hold civilians, to using Palestinian children as human shields.
Meanwhile, the governor of North Sinai, Abdel Wahab Mabruk, ruled out reports that those behind the Thursday's attacks had slipped to Egypt through underground tunnels across the border between Gaza and Egypt and challenged Israel to provide evidence that the attacks originated from Egypt.
"How does Israel know they came from Sinai? What is Israel's evidence?" he questioned.