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OPT: Israeli ministers warn of military ops against Gaza rocket attacks

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JERUSALEM, Nov 15, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX News Network) -- Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Saturday said that her country would use forces to protect its citizens from attacks by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip.

"If Israeli citizens are attacked, Israel will respond with force to defend them," local daily Ha'aretz quoted the chairwoman of the ruling Kadima party as saying at an event in Tel Aviv.

Meanwhile, the promising premiership contender in the February general election added that if the situation in southern Israel becomes quiet and Gazan militants do not exploit the lull to prepare for the next attack, Israel will maintain the calm.

With a similar stance, Defense Minister Ehud Barak also warned that Israeli army would carry out military operations in the Hamas- ruled enclave should Gazan militants continue to launch cross- border attacks.

"It is possible that when the time comes there will be a need for a broad operation because we can't reconcile ourselves to the continued infringement of the truce," he was quoted as saying, adding that the troops are prepared for such a scenario.

Yet the former prime minister also hinted his willingness to see the five-month-old Gaza truce, which both sides had generally honored before recent clashes, remain in shape, saying that "we must work with forethought and discretion" when considering the military option.

The ministers' remarks came in the wake of two rocking weeks, which started on Nov. 4 when Israeli paratroopers killed six Hamas gunmen in a Gaza operation and the Gaza-ruler responded with a barrage of rockets. Since then, over a dozen Palestinian militants have been killed and Israel was stricken by tens of rockets.

On Friday, caretaker Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also warned that his country will not tolerate the continuing rocket attacks from the strip, and Barak told residents of the bombarded town of Sderot that the government would take decisive moves to protect them and "keep acting against attempts to interrupt the ceasefire."