Israeli PM makes quiet visit to Gaza periphery towns

By Xinhua

Jerusalem : Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited the Gaza Strip’s periphery towns on Thursday evening and met residents of Sderot and Kibbutz Gavim after an escalation of rocket attacks on the area from Gaza, local Jerusalem Post reported on Friday.

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Olmert insisted that Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip would continue.

For security reasons, Olmert’s visit was kept quiet, accompanied by Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai and Defense Ministry Director General Raanan Dinor.

Local residents expressed their fear over the continued barrages of rockets, amounting to over 130 in recent days, and demanded complete fortification for all the houses in the area.

The prime minister was also informed of heavy damage to the area’s agriculture caused by the Kassam rockets.

In response, Olmert said that he identified with the pain of the residents but failed to promise full protection of all of the houses.

He said that he did not want to give false hope that all the houses could be fortified, but promised to do all that he could in the matter.

Olmert also said that he admitted there would be tougher days. Nonetheless, he would do all in his power to secure the protection of the southern residents.

More than 40 Qassam rockets landed in and around the town of Sderot and its neighboring communities in the western Negev on Thursday, wounding three people, while Israeli strikes against militant cells in Gaza left at least 25 Palestinians killed.

While touring the rocket-stricken region on Thursday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered a complete closure of the coastal territory, vowing that Israeli army would bring an end to incessant barrages.