Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday called directly on Gaza Strip residents to stop what he dubbed the common enemy of both them and Israelis from firing rockets at Israel, local newspaper The Jerusalem Post reported.
"I say to you in a last minute call, stop it. Stop it, you the citizens of Gaza, you can stop it," Olmert was quoted as saying in an interview with the Arab satellite station al-Arabiya.
"We want to live as good neighbors with Gaza. We don't want to harm you, and we will not allow a humanitarian crisis where you will suffer from a lack of food and medicine. We don't want to fight with the Palestinian people," added Olmert in this rare direct appeal.
Highlighting that both Israelis in the southern town of Sderot, a target of frequent rocket attacks, and Palestinians in the Hamas- ruled strip want to live a peaceful life, the outgoing leader said that the Islamic movement was the enemy not only of Israel, but also of Gaza.
"Don't let Hamas, which is acting against the values of Islam, put you in danger," he was quoted as saying. "Stop them. Stop your enemies and ours. Tell them to stop firing on innocent civilians."
Israel did not want to use its military force, but would not hesitate to use it against Hamas and Islamic Jihad, added Olmert, without elaborating.
The unusual move came after Gaza militants rained some 70 rockets and mortar shells upon southern Israel on Wednesday and fired at least three rockets and several mortar shells on Thursday morning. In response, an Israeli airstrike killed a Hamas gunman in southern Gaza.
Clashes between the two sides resumed in early November after Israel and Gaza militant groups had generally honored an Egypt- brokered truce deal for five months. Amid recent flare-ups, Israel's defense establishment has reportedly instructed the army to prepare itself to carry out a sizable operation in the coastal strip to end the continuing barrage.
(Xinhua News Agency December 25, 2008)