Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement in Ramat Gan.
AP, Jerusalem : Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that continued rocket fire from Gaza is making another war against militants in the coastal strip inevitable, his latest headline-grabbing announcement just days before he seeks re-election in a nationwide vote. Netanyahu said advanced plans were in place to strike Gaza and that he would decide the optimal timing of the offensive, given the Gaza Hamas rulers' unwillingness to stop the daily barrages. The Israeli military has responded to the attacks with limited strikes against Hamas installations that have caused no casualties and little damage, and has refrained from risking a larger conflagration on the eve of Israelis heading to the polls. The Israeli leader has been criticized for failing to respond harshly to the rockets, which have been frequently sending residents of southern Israel scurrying for cover. Netanyahu, who counts on the working-class, Gaza border towns as part of his electoral base, was himself whisked away by bodyguards from a campaign event on Tuesday when Palestinian militants fired rockets toward the area where he was. Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and Hamas militants overtook the territory by force two years later. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars and engaged in several other rounds of violence over the past decade. "I do not wage war unless it is a last resort and I don't risk the lives of our soldiers and citizens just to get applause," Netanyahu said in an interview with Kan Reshet Bet Radio. "We will probably have no choice but to set out on a big campaign, a war against the terror forces in Gaza." "I won't start it one minute before we are ready, and we are preparing for a 'different war'," he added, shortly before flying to Russia for a meeting with President Vladimir Putin. It was Netanyahu's first major interview to a mainstream media outlet in a frenetic campaign in which he has been dictating the agenda with a dizzying array of maneuvers.
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