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Don't test us, Israel army chief warns Gaza militants

02 september 2011, 11:59
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Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz, the new Israeli Chief of Staff. ©Reuters
Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz, the new Israeli Chief of Staff. ©Reuters
Israel's top military chief has warned Gaza militants not to "test" Israel's strength as troops and police were on Wednesday on high alert over warnings of a planned attack from Sinai, AFP reports.

Speaking late on Tuesday, Chief of Staff Benny Gantz warned that any attempt to attack Israel would result in a harsh response.

"Hamas and other terrorist organisations in Gaza must know that they are wrong to test our strength and that any attempt to harm the citizens of Israel will result in a severe response," Gantz said in remarks which were released by the army on Wednesday.

Troops are on high alert in southern Israel over intelligence warnings that a group of 10 militants from Gaza have entered the Sinai and are looking for ways to stage an attack along the lines of August 18 ambushes when gunmen crossed the Egyptian border and killed eight Israelis on a road near the Red Sea resort of Eilat.

The deadly attacks, which Israel blamed on Gaza militants, sparked a week of bloody clashes, with the air force staging multiple air strikes on Gaza killing 27 people, and militants there lobbing over 150 rockets over the border, killing one Israeli.

"The continuous rocket fire on the communities of southern Israel, including the city of Ashdod, the malicious terror attack in Tel Aviv on Sunday night, and the severe terror attack at the Egypt border less than two weeks ago, prove to us yet again, that beside striving to maintain the quiet in our area, we must be prepared for any threat," Gantz said.

Militants in Gaza have so far held to a weekend truce agreement, although Israeli press reports speculated the warnings of a fresh attack was tied to their desire to avenge the deaths of those Palestinians killed in the air strikes.

In a separate development, a West Bank Palestinian wounded seven Israelis overnight Sunday when he crashed a stolen taxi into a group of border guards in Tel Aviv, then attacked them with a knife.

Hours earlier, Gantz had raised the level of alert along the Israeli-Egyptian border and around the Gaza Strip, beefing up the number of troops in both areas over warnings of a fresh attack, media reports said.

With troops on high alert, route 12 which runs along the Egyptian border and was the site of the August 18 attacks, was declared off-limits to civilian traffic, with similar measures taken on another road which flanks the frontier.

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