Israel threatens to unleash ‘holocaust’ in Gaza
Matan Vilnai issued the threats after an escalation in rocket fire from the Strip
James Hider, of The Times, Jerusalem
An Israeli minister gave warning today that the army may unleash a “holocaust” on the Gaza Strip if Islamists there do not end their daily barrages of home-made Qassam rockets and their increasing use of Iranian-built Grad missiles.
“The more Qassam fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they will bring upon themselves a bigger holocaust because we will use all our might to defend ourselves,” Matan Vilnai, the Deputy Defence Minister said.
The use of the term “holocaust” is usually restricted to descriptions of the Nazi genocide of the Jews in Europe in the Second World War, and many Israelis resent its use in any other context. Mr Vilnai’s deployment of the word appeared to show Israel’s growing frustration that Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza refuse to curb their attacks, despite heavy tolls inflicted in Israeli air strikes and tank raids.
Israel has killed 32 Palestinians, including four children and a baby, in the past two days amid a dramatic escalation of the cross-border war. Palestinian rocket fire killed one man on an Israeli campus, but scores more of the unguided missiles have landed in recent days, including some that hit the southern city of Ashkelon today, wounding several people.
Israeli defence officials said that preparations for a big ground offensive to storm Gaza and break Hamas have been completed, but that they are waiting for improved weather conditions to begin what many predict would be a hugely bloody offensive into the crowded streets of Gaza’s cities and refugee slums.
Many observers worry that Israel could be dragged back into a costly, long-term military occupation of Gaza, which may not even halt the rockets. Militants have been firing them for seven years, while Israel only ended its occupation of the Strip two years ago.
“We’re getting close to using our full strength. Until now, we’ve used a small percentage of the army’s power because of the nature of the territory,” Mr Vilnai said.
Ehud Barak, the Defence Minister, was reported in the Israeli media to have sent messages to world leaders giving warning of an impending conflagration in Gaza, but insisted that Hamas’s endless rocket attacks have left Israel with no choice but to attack.