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Last Updated: Sunday, 3 October, 2004, 13:12 GMT 14:12 UK
Sharon vows to end rocket strikes
Israeli tank and soldiers inside Gaza Strip
Israeli forces have pushed 9km inside Palestinian territory
Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says a military operation in Gaza will continue for as long as is necessary to prevent Palestinian rocket attacks.

Mr Sharon said troops would increase their area of control in northern Gaza.

The operation began after two children were killed by Palestinian rockets in the Israeli border town of Sderot.

On Sunday, a Palestinian militant was killed after launching rockets near Sderot. Nearly 60 Palestinians have been killed in the last four days.

They include civilians as well as militants.

Three Israelis - one a civilian - have been killed during the current incursion, which has seen Israeli troops backed by armoured vehicles and aircraft seize a 9km-stretch on the edge of Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza.

Complete end

"It is necessary to bring about a complete end to the firing of rockets on Sderot and other towns that border the Gaza Strip. The current situation cannot continue," Mr Sharon told Israel Radio.

We should act for as long as the danger exists
Ariel Sharon

"We have to expand the areas of operation in order to get the rocket launchers out of the range of Israeli towns."

He added: "This is not a short operation. We should act for as long as the danger exists."

Analysts say the rocket attacks - which use crude home-made Qassam missiles - could increase opposition to Mr Sharon's contentious plan to evacuate all Gaza Strip settlements.

But the prime minister insists that the evacuation would be implemented on schedule.

Wait-and-strike pattern

By the early afternoon on Sunday, a series of Israeli attacks left a number of Palestinians dead - including at least four militants and one civilian.

One of the dead was killed moments after firing another rocket into southern Israel. It caused no casualties.

There is a pattern to this conflict now, says the BBC's Alan Johnston in Gaza.

The extended clashes that involved many civilian casualties in the first days of the operation have ebbed away, our correspondent says.

The Israelis are gathered in massive force and they are making use of all of their high-technology surveillance gear. When they identify a militant target they hit with devastating force, he says.

The Palestinian leadership has condemned the Israeli incursion as "ugly state terror and war crimes".

But it also signalled that militants should end rocket attacks, saying they gave Israelis "the pretext to pursue their crimes".

Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath told the BBC on Sunday that even militant groups like Hamas were interested in declaring a ceasefire.

But the Israelis refused to do the same preferring to "impose what they think is a military defeat on all the Palestinian people".

"The only strategy that I see working is a strategy of getting back to the peace process" via to internationally-accepted roadmap plan, Mr Shaath told the Newshour programme.

The US has called on Israel to limit its latest offensive, and France and Russia have voiced deep concern.

The Gaza Strip has been occupied by Israel since it captured the territory in the 1967 war.

Israel and the Palestinians



Palestinian women sit on a roof top of the home of a Palestinian family in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on 20 November 2006. Human shields
Palestinians adopt a new tactic to deter Israeli attacks, but this is a high-risk strategy




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