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Israel Is Ready to Expand Operations in Gaza: Netanyahu

Israeli Soldiers Search Operation
Israeli soldiers during a search operation to locate the three missing teenagers, in the village of Halhul, near the West Bank town of Hebron, on June 29, 2014. Photographer: Hazem Bader/AFP via Getty Images

Israel is prepared to increase its military operations in the Gaza Strip if necessary, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today.

A rocket attack from the Palestinian enclave hit a factory in the Israeli town of Sderot yesterday. Israeli aircraft targeted rocket launchers and weapons manufacturing sites in Gaza in response. Netanyahu said that he holds Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas responsible for rocket fire.

“From the moment the Palestinian unity government was established with the Hamas terrorist organization, the Palestinian Authority became responsible for preventing firing at our territory from the Gaza Strip,” Netanyahu told the cabinet today, according to an e-mailed statement.

Israel withdrew its forces and forcibly evacuated its citizens from Gaza in 2005. Hamas, classified as a terrorist group by Israel, the U.S., and European Union, took control of the territory in 2007. Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority rules parts of the West Bank, formed a governing coalition with Hamas on June 2.

The army is still searching for three Israeli teenagers missing since June 12, whom Israel says have been abducted by Hamas. Netanyahu said today that if Abbas wants to “‘proceed on the path to peace’’ he should ‘‘tear up his agreement with Hamas.’’

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said the army may have to reoccupy Gaza.

‘‘We have to decide if we go with the option of a full occupation of the Gaza Strip,’’ Liberman said on Army Radio today. ‘‘We have seen that a limited operation only strengthens Hamas.’’

The government may declare illegal a domestic Islamic group, described by Netanyahu as ‘‘the northern branch of the Islamic Movement,’’ after protesters blocked roads on June 27 and called for the abduction of Israeli soldiers, Netanyahu said today.

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