INTERNATIONAL

We will not show restraint anymore: Israel

Atul Aneja

DUBAI: The fragile ceasefire in the Gaza Strip had been put under further strain after Israeli warplanes bombed the coastal strip's southern border with Egypt on Wednesday.

The attacks came after Palestinian fighters killed one Israeli officer and wounded three others in an attack on Tuesday.

The visiting American envoy for West Asia, George Mitchell, called for a more durable ceasefire after the fresh spurt of violence followed nearly a week of relative calm.

"It is of critical importance that the ceasefire be extended and consolidated. We support Egypt's continuing efforts in that regard," said Mr. Mitchell after meeting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on the first leg of his maiden visit to West Asia.

Israeli leaders in government, gearing up for upcoming elections, said they would not exercise restraint in response to the Palestinian attack.

"Israel is going to act according to a new equation. We are not going to show restraint anymore," said Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. "We need to change the rules of the game until they learn that the rules have changed and the equation has changed." Ms. Livni stressed that a thaw in Israel's relations with the Palestinian group Hamas "is not an option." She however advocated negotiations with the rival Fatah leadership in West Bank for finding a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Israel closed its Gaza crossings used for sending humanitarian supplies after opening them briefly on Tuesday morning. In Syria, President Bashar Al Assad met top leaders of Palestinian factions on Tuesday. He called upon them to translate achievements on the battlefield in Gaza into concrete political accomplishments. He urged them to work for lifting the siege around Gaza and to ensure that all border crossing points were opened permanently.

Meanwhile, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, has cancelled a scheduled interview with the BBC in protest against the broadcaster's decision not to air a humanitarian appeal for Gaza victims.

An IAEA spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming, said that the "Director-General has cancelled his scheduled BBC World Service TV and radio interviews because of the BBC management's refusal to broadcast the DEC's (Disasters Emergency Committee) humanitarian appeal for Gaza." She added: "He believes this decision violates the rules of basic human decency which are there to help vulnerable people irrespective of who is right or wrong."

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