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Middle East

Hezbollah denies involvement in rocket attack as Israeli army not yet asked to do "everything necessary"

Article published on the 2009-01-08 Latest update 2009-01-09 10:29 TU

An Israeli soldier on a tank outside the northern Gaza Strip.(Photo: Reuters)

An Israeli soldier on a tank outside the northern Gaza Strip.
(Photo: Reuters)

Israel says it has not yet told the army to increase the scale of the military operation in Gaza, while the Lebanese Shia-Muslim-based movement, Hezbollah, says they had no involvement in a rocket attack on Israel from southern Lebanon.

The Israeli government says it has not yet given the go-ahead to increase the scale of the military operation in the Gaza Strip.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the announcement during a visit to the Gaza Strip, where he was accompanied by Defence Minister Ehud Barak.

“We haven’t yet reached that point and the army has not yet been asked to do everything necessary,” he said.

His statement came as two Israeli soldiers were wounded on Thursday after a Palestinian rocket attack.

The attack happened during the daily three-hour suspension of bombing which Israel began on Wednesday, which is intended to enable the distribution of humanitarian aid to the territory.

While in Madrid at a press conference, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas said that he hoped a series of rockets fired into northern Israel, from Lebanon, was an “isolated incident”.

He noted that no Palestinian groups had claimed responsibility for the rockets which created panic on both sides of the border.

Hezbollah has denied any responsibility for the attacks.

Elsewhere about 250 foreign nationals managed to escape from the area on Thursday after the International Committee of the Red Cross organised a convoy.

Six buses containing Canadians, Filipinos, Swedes, Norwegians, Romanians and Austrians were driven to the Erez border before being taken to Jordan where they were to take flights home.

Ongoing efforts to secure a ceasefire suffered a blow on Thursday as a number of Palestinian groups said the Egyptian plan “has no valid basis."

The groups, including Hamas, met in Damascus, Syria, to discuss the proposal presented by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Tuesday.

The plan includes an immediate ceasefire, the reopening of Gaza’s borders and an invitation to peace talks in Egypt.

Some analysts believe the US must get involved in order to prevent further violence.

Analysis: Dr Laleh Khalili, School of Oriental and African Studies, London

08/01/2009 by Aidan O'Donnell

“I think part of the reason that Israel began the activities when it did is because the US, who is actually the only actor that can make Israel do anything, is in transition,” said Dr Laleh Khalili, from the School of Oriental and African Studies.

“Unless the US gets actively involved, I don’t think the Egyptians or the French are going to be accomplishing much,” she told RFI from London.

In Europe, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that smuggling weapons into Gaza will stop, before Israel agrees to halt its offensive.

“Israel must be given a guarantee that weapons will not cross the frontier, from that moment the Israeli army must leave Gaza,” he said.