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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Olmert Promises to Step Up Attacks

JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday vowed to increase attacks on the Hamas militant group after a Palestinian rocket killed an Israeli man in southern Israel. "No one is immune," Olmert declared.

Olmert's comments, coupled with the latest bloodshed, signaled there was no end in sight for the latest round of fighting between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. A 10-day campaign of Israeli airstrikes aimed at halting rocket attacks has killed nearly 50 Palestinians, most of them militants. But the rocket fire has continued.

Another rocket slammed into the southern Israeli town of Sderot early Sunday, critically wounding a 36-year-old man with shrapnel, medical officials said. The man later died of his wounds, hospital officials said. It was the second fatal rocket attack in less than a week.

Olmert told the weekly meeting of his Cabinet on Sunday that he had instructed the army to do whatever it takes to halt the rocket fire.

"There will be no limit in acting against the terror groups and against those who are responsible for the terror. No one is immune," Olmert said. He said there would be no time limit for the army, and that outside pressure would not stop Israel from acting.

At the same time, Olmert acknowledged there was no quick solution for the crude "Qassam" rockets, which have long baffled Israel's high-tech army.

"We don't want to create unrealistic expectations that it's possible to stop the Qassams totally," Olmert said. "These launchings are liable to continue, people are liable to continue to be exposed." He promised maximum efforts to protect and aid the residents of Sderot and other affected communities.

Israel has so far avoided attacks on Hamas' political leaders -- a tactic it used at the height of Israeli--Palestinian fighting several years ago. It was not immediately clear whether Olmert's comments Sunday were aimed at the Hamas leadership. The group is now the senior partner in the Palestinian coalition government.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, warned Israel against targeting the movement's leaders.

"Whoever thinks that harming the Hamas leadership can dissipate the movement is a fool," he said. "Hamas is a group based on institutions, not individuals."

Sunday's rocket attack came one day after Hamas vowed revenge for a barrage of Israeli airstrikes that killed five militants in Gaza. Hamas rejected calls for a truce and promised more attacks.

It also warned that the Israeli air assault would jeopardize the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier nabbed last June by Hamas-linked militants. Shalit has not been heard from or seen since his capture.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate from the rival Fatah faction, has tried in recent days to revive a cease-fire with Israel.

Under his plan, Gaza militants would halt rocket fire for a month to allow for negotiations on a more comprehensive truce that would include the West Bank. Abbas has long been a vocal critic of Palestinian rocket attacks, but been powerless to stop the rocket fire.

Abu Zuhri, the Hamas spokesman, said it is "absurd" to talk about a truce as long as the Israeli airstrikes continue.