Israeli tanks have fired shells near the Gaza Strip, as the cabinet gives the green light for an all-out and continuous assault against militants. Military sources described the firing as range practice. Israel has launched an intensive strike on Gaza and arrested more than 200 suspected militants in the West Bank, after Palestinians fired rockets into the Jewish State.
The flare-up in violence comes only two weeks after Israel pulled its troops out of Gaza. There were hopes the end of 38 years of occupation would result in new peace efforts. Tensions grew after a blast killed 15 people at a rally organised by Hamas in Gaza on Friday. Israel has denied responsibility, while the Palestinian Authority said it appeared to be an accident caused by Hamas members carrying explosives.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his cabinet have ordered the unprecedented use of artillery against militants, and the resumption of targeted assassinations. The Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said the action was unjustified, and accused Israel of trying to wreck hopes of reviving peace talks. The flare-up puts new pressure on Ariel Sharon as he tries to defeat a rightist leadership challenge on Monday over the Gaza withdrawal.