JERUSALEM, Israel- Ashkelon residents are finding it difficult to return to normal after a grad-model Katyusha rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck a shopping mall in the Israeli coastal city Wednesday evening.
Israeli Defense Forces officials hint that a larger offensive against terrorists inside the Gaza Strip will happen now that President Bush has departed Israel.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak affirmed Thursday that escalated action against Hamas will happen sooner rather than later. Barak spoke during the closing ceremony of the president's conference in Jerusalem which celebrated Israel's 60th anniversary.
"We will return peace and security to Ashkelon and the communities along the southern border," Barak said.
Palestinians have fired rockets continuously in Southern Israel for the past seven years. Wednesday's attack, which seriously injured several people and sent scores of others into shock, suggests Palestinian success in achieving longer ranges for their rockets.
"After such attacks, like the one that happened yesterday, the blood boils and the gut reaction is to respond," Barak said, adding that weighing all possible options is top priority.
Barak was referring to dialogue with Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman as Israel weighs a cease-fire agreement with Hamas.
"What is demanded of us now is resolve, a deep breath, nerves of steel and cruel tolerance until the proper time," he said.
Source: The Jerusalem Post