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Israel to Palestinians: We'll stop shooting if you do

From Shira Medding and Kevin Flower, CNN
An Israeli soldier enters a tank near the Israeli side of the Gaza border.
An Israeli soldier enters a tank near the Israeli side of the Gaza border.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The Arab League plans to ask for a no-fly zone over Gaza
  • Prime Minister Netanyahu says a teen hit in a bus attack is fighting for his life
  • Netanyahu warns that Israel will strike back hard if attacks continue
  • At least 18 Palestinians have died in Israeli strikes since the Hamas attack on the bus

Jerusalem (CNN) -- Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Sunday that Israel was willing to stop attacks on Gaza if the Palestinians stop firing into southern Israel.

"If they stop firing at our communities, then we will stop firing. If they stop firing altogether, then there will be quiet," Barak said in an interview on Israel Radio.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned shortly afterward that the converse was also true.

"Our policy is clear. If attacks against Israeli civilians and Israeli soldiers continue, the response will be very harsh," he said before the weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday.

Barak's offer comes after a particularly intense few days of hostilities following a Hamas rocket attack on an Israeli bus that left a teenager critically wounded on Thursday.

Netanyahu said Sunday the victim, Daniel Wiliech, "is fighting for his life. We, along with the entire nation, pray for him."

Israel responded with a series of strikes on Gaza that has left at least 18 people dead, the largest number since a major Israeli incursion into the territory in 2008-09 in response to Palestinian rocket attacks.

Peres thanks U.S. for backing Israel
RELATED TOPICS
  • Ehud Barak
  • Gaza
  • Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Saturday called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League in the face of the upsurge in violence, according to the official Palestinian news agency.

The Arab League plans to request that the United Nations Security Council "consider the aggression against the Gaza Strip" and impose a no-fly zone over Gaza to protect civilians, Hisham Yousef, the Arab League's chief of staff, said Sunday.

Palestinians fired nine mortars and rockets into Israel Sunday morning, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said -- a significant drop from the level of the past few days.

On Saturday, the Israeli air force struck and killed three Hamas personnel in southern Gaza, according to both the Israeli military and Palestinian medics. The Israel Defense Forces said the people were a senior Hamas military wing leader and his two bodyguards.

In another incident, a Palestinian man died of wounds in an early evening airstrike in the Zeitoun area of Gaza City.

Rosenfeld said about 42 rockets and mortars were fired into Israel on Saturday, including 10 longer-range Grad rockets, but no injuries were reported.

The military put the number of rockets and mortars fired Saturday at 50.

It said aircraft and armored forces targeted 11 squads of "terrorists" in the northern and southern Gaza Strip and 15 "terror activity sites," including "terror infrastructure sites, Hamas outposts, smuggling tunnels and weapons manufacturing and storage facilities."

The three-day death toll in Gaza includes at least 10 militants and eight civilians.

On Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the attack on a civilian bus "crossed the line" and that "whoever tries to hurt and murder children will have no immunity."

In a Friday letter to the U.N. Security Council, Riyad Mansour -- Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations -- charged Israel with using "indiscriminate and excessive force" and asked for the world body to intervene to "prevent the slaughter of more innocent civilians."

A Hamas official vowed Saturday to widen the scope of the group's attacks on Israel if Netanyahu did not agree to halt airstrikes on Gaza.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri blamed Israel for the surge in violence and said Hamas would do what was needed to protect Palestinians in Gaza.

Abu Obeida, spokesman for the Hamas military wing, the Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades, told reporters in Gaza City on Saturday that his group would continue to wage a fight until Palestinians cast off the Israeli occupation and wrested away their lands.

He said it was impossible to speak about any sort of calm between Hamas and Israel while there was aggression being committed against the Palestinian people.

Israeli officials have cited various precautions to avert casualties. They include early warning systems, road closures near the Gaza border and the use of bomb shelters, police spokesman Rosenfeld said.

The Israeli military said Saturday that its newly deployed anti-rocket defense system known as the Iron Dome successfully intercepted Grad rockets that had been fired from Gaza Friday and Saturday. Over the past 48 hours, "terrorist organizations" in Gaza had fired more than 120 Grad missiles, rockets and mortars at Israel, the IDF said.

In a statement released Saturday, the Israeli military said it "continued striking terror sites in the Gaza Strip" in coordination with Israel's domestic security agency, the Shin Bet.

Journalist Talal Abu Rahma contributed to this report

 
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