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Israel says no major Gaza operations planned


TEL AVIV, February 2 (RIA Novosti) - Israel is not planning any large-scale operations in the Gaza Strip despite rocket attacks in the south and will have to "wait and see" if the ceasefire holds, the country's defense minister has said.

Israel carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip late Sunday after Palestinian militants launched rockets on southern Israel. The airstrikes targeted tunnels used by Palestinian smugglers, a Hamas traffic control post, and the border area between Gaza and Egypt. There are no reported casualties.

"We have no intention of embarking on Operation Cast Lead number two. We said there would be a response [to the rocket fire] and we responded," Ehud Barak said in an interview with Ynet news website on Sunday. "I don't know whether or not Hamas will really hold fire on Thursday; we'll have to wait and see."

The latest violence threatens a fragile ceasefire imposed two weeks ago following a three-week Israeli offensive which saw some 1,300 Palestinians, mostly civilians, killed and more that 5,300 injured and caused widespread damage and destruction.

"Hamas has received the most massive blow ever dealt to it. It was left in shambles, dazed and trying to pick up the pieces. It wants peace, and if it really wants peace, there is a chance we can have it. Still, I can't say that with 100% certainty," the minister said.

He said the defense establishment had not been biding its time: "Our deterrence is intact. Hamas is barely picking up the pieces and is looking for a truce. If we play our cards right and prevent further escalation than we have a good chance of some peace and quiet."

Early Sunday, militants launched rockets and mortars into southern Israel, injuring two service personnel and one civilian.

"If there is shooting at residents of the south, there will be an Israeli response that will be harsh and disproportionate," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at a government meeting on Sunday.

The United Nations has launched an appeal for $613 million to help Gaza in the wake of Israel's military offensive. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who visited Gaza last month, said the region could face a greater humanitarian disaster if action was not taken immediately.

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