Israel warns of new Gaza assault
Jerusalem - Israel on Friday threatened a wide-scale military operation against the Gaza Strip after a string of air strikes which injured three Palestinian children following rocket attacks from the enclave.
Israel's deputy prime minister, Silvan Shalom, warned that the military would soon launch a new offensive on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip unless the rocket fire was halted.
"If this rocket fire against Israel does not stop, it seems we will have to raise the level of our activity and step up our actions against Hamas," Shalom told public radio.
"We won't allow frightened children to again be raised in bomb shelters and so, in the end, it will force us to launch another military operation," said the deputy premier.
"I hope we can avoid it, but it is one of the options we have, and if we don't have a choice, we will use it in the near future," he said.
Six overnight raids
Three Palestinian children - aged 2, 4 and 11 - were hit by flying glass in one of the six overnight raids, said Moawiya Hassanein, head of the Palestinian emergency services in Gaza.
There were no other reports of casualties.
The head of the Islamist Hamas movement's government in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniya, reacted by blaming the Jewish state for the increase in tensions.
"We call on the international community to intervene to stop this escalation and Israeli aggression," Haniya said.
The strikes came after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants landed near the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon late on Thursday, causing damage but no casualties, the army said.
Nearly 20 rockets have been fired into Israel in the past month, including one that killed a Thai farm worker, in the worst spate of violence since the end of Israel's 22-day assault on the territory launched in December 2008.