OCCUPIED JERUSALEM – Israel threatened on Friday, February 29, to turn the Gaza Strip into a "bigger holocaust" for the Palestinians amid reports of a looming massive ground invasion.
"The more Qassam (rocket) fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they (the Palestinians) will bring upon themselves a bigger holocaust because we will use all our might to defend ourselves," Deputy Israeli Defense Minister Matan Vilnai told Israeli Army Radio in statements carried by Reuters.
Israel continued its aggression on the besieged Gaza Strip Friday with four air strikes, which injured four people, including two children aged five and six, in the northern town of Jabaliya, medics and witnesses said.
Using US-made F-16 warplanes, Apache helicopters Israel killed in the past two days more than 32 Gazans, including five children and a toddler.
The Holocaust is a very sensitive issue In Israel as it conjures up horrific killings and executions of Jews by the Nazi.
Commentators say this is the first time an Israeli official uses the term "shoah", the Hebrew word for holocaust, metaphorically to describe contemporary events.
The Israeli deputy Defense Minister also said that Israel’s patience is wearing thin to launch a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.
"We will not shy away from any action," to force the Palestinian groups to stop firing rocket into Israeli cities, Vilnai said.
Israel "will have no choice" but to launch a wide scale ground operation that will be "costly and difficult."
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned on Thursday, February 28, that "a large-scale ground operation is being considered."
On Friday, Barak sent confidential messages to world leaders and officials, including US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, trying to justify the currently prepared offensive, according to Israel’s mass circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth.
"Israel is not keen on and rushing for an offensive, but Hamas is leaving us no choice," Barak said in his message.
As part of such preparations, the Israeli daily revealed that the Israeli army deployed in the past two days dozens of tanks, artillery battery north of Gaza to reinforce infantry, engineering corps forces.
Israel pulled its troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005 but still maintains control of the territory’s air space, coastal waters and major border crossings.
The chief of the Israeli left-wing Meretz party, Yossi Beilin, voiced his opposition Thursday to a ground invasion of the Strip, calling for talks with Hamas.
"My solution is to reach a cease-fire with Hamas," Beilin told an Israeli public radio.
Beilin said Hamas has expressed an interest in a truce over the last few weeks and that it was irresponsible of Israel not to respond to them.
"At least on two occasions Hamas has made it passed on truce offers to Israel via third parties," he said, adding that such a ceasefire was "the only way to stop the rocket fire."
According to a survey published in Haaretz newspaper on Wednesday, most Israelis think their government should hold direct talks with Hamas to reach a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and secure the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shilat, who was taken prisoner in a cross-border joint operation by Palestinian resistance groups.
(IslamOnline.net and agencies)