Livni and Netanyahu vow to topple Hamas rule
The two leading candidates to become Israel's next prime minister vowed on Sunday to topple Hamas's government in the Gaza Strip, ratcheting up tensions after a six-month-old cease-fire ended in violence, Reuters reported.
The threats by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and right-wing Likud party chief Benjamin Netanyahu followed a cabinet meeting in which outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert cautioned against rushing into a large-scale operation in the Hamas-ruled enclave in response to escalating rocket fire by militants.
Such an operation could result in heavy casualties on both sides, fuel a major humanitarian crisis in the aid-dependent Gaza Strip and spark an international outcry against Israel.
If elected premier in a Feb 10 election, Livni, who heads the centrist Kadima party, said her government's "strategic objective" would be to "topple the Hamas regime" using military, economic and diplomatic means. She did not set a timetable.
Netanyahu, Livni's main rival for the premiership, called for a more "active policy of attack," accusing the current government of being too "passive."
"In the long-term, we will have to topple the Hamas regime. In the short-term, ... there are a wide range of possibilities, from doing nothing to doing everything, meaning to conquer Gaza," Netanyahu said during a visit to a house in the southern Israeli town of Sderot that was hit by a rocket.
Palestinian militants have fired nearly 60 of the makeshift rockets and mortar shells at Israel since the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire with Hamas ended on Friday, the Israeli army said. Over the weekend, an Israeli air strike killed one militant and at least one person in Israel was injured by a shell shrapnel.