Israel warns of tough response after Gaza rocket hits house

Updated 12 November 2012
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Israel warns of tough response after Gaza rocket hits house

JERUSALEM: A Palestinian rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck a house in southern Israel on Monday, causing damage but no injuries, and Israeli officials quickly warned of a tough response to the latest surge in violence.
The rocket hit the town of Netivot, ending a brief overnight lull to three days of fighting, which has left six Palestinians dead, including four civilians, and 40 wounded. Eight Israelis have also been wounded in the cross-border attacks.
“We have a full box of tools ... that we have not yet used,” Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon told Army Radio. “We will need to toughen our response until Hamas says ‘enough’ and ends the fire.”
The Islamist movement Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist, governs in Gaza.
However many of the missiles fired out of the coastal enclave are launched by other groups, with Monday’s strike claimed by the radical Salafi organization, the Shoura Council of the Mujahedeen.
Israel went to war against Hamas in the winter of 2008-2009 but has shown little appetite for a new round that could strain fraught relations with the new Islamist-rooted government in neighboring Egypt, which made peace with Israel in 1979.
But conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be reluctant to seem weak ahead of a Jan. 22 general election that opinion polls currently predict he will win.
Yaalon admitted there was no “bang and we’re done” solution and declined to say if Israel would return to a former policy of targeted killings of Gaza leaders.
“I am not calling for any one thing specifically,” he said.
On Saturday, a Palestinian missile strike wounded four Israeli troops on a jeep patrol along the Gaza boundary, triggering army shelling in which the four Palestinian civilians died.
In turn dozens of mortars and rockets were launched at Israel and the military carried out a series of air strikes throughout the Gaza Strip. Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system knocked down a number of longer-range rockets.
Egypt has been trying to broker a cease-fire between the Palestinian factions and Israel, a Palestinian official with knowledge of the contacts told Reuters.
“Nothing has yet been formalized. Israel and Hamas kept their old positions. Calm will be met with calm and escalation with escalation,” the official said.


Top Iraq court orders manual vote recount after latest elections

Updated 18 min 40 sec ago
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Top Iraq court orders manual vote recount after latest elections

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s supreme court on Thursday ordered a manual recount of May 12 legislative elections, a process expected to take weeks although parliament’s mandate runs out at the end of this month.
The recount due to suspicions of electoral fraud, however, would not significantly affect the overall outcome, according to experts on Iraqi politics.
The court ruled that parliament’s decision on June 6 to order a manual recount in response to allegations of irregularities did not violate the constitution, its president Medhat Al-Mahmud told a news conference.
All of the roughly 11 million ballots, including those of voters living abroad, displaced persons and security forces, must be recounted, he said, referring to the three categories whose results MPs had decided to annul because they were allegedly the most suspect.
Last month’s ballot was won by cleric populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr’s electoral alliance with communists, as long-time political figures were pushed out by voters seeking change in a country mired in conflict and corruption.
The result was contested mainly by the political old guard following allegations of fraud in the election, Iraq’s first since the defeat of the Daesh group.
According to intelligence services, tests of electronic voting machines used for the first time in Iraqi elections produced varied results, appearing to give credence to the fraud claims.
The vote saw a record number of abstentions as Iraqis snubbed the corruption-tainted elite that has dominated the country since the US-led invasion of 2003 toppled Saddam Hussein.
Many of Iraq’s longtime political figures seemingly irremovable since the dictator’s fall were pushed out of their seats by new faces.
The supreme court, whose rulings are final, also ratified parliament’s decision to dismiss Iraq’s nine-member electoral commission and have them replaced by judges.
The recount is unlikely to produce a major change in the number of seats won by rival lists, according to experts, but rather modify the rankings of candidates within the same lists.
“The major blocs could win or lose three seats,” said judicial expert Haidar Al-Soufi.
Tarek Al-Marmori, another expert, said that even if a manual recount takes weeks, “there will be a legislative but no constitutional vacuum” because Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi’s government would stay on in a caretaker capacity.

When Sadr’s bloc scooped the most seats in May’s election it was seen as a blow for Tehran, long the dominant foreign player in conflict-hit Iraq.
The Shiite firebrand had railed against both the influence of Iran and the United States, even drawing closer to Tehran’s arch-foe Saudi Arabia.
But on June 13, he announced an alliance with pro-Iranian Hadi Al-Ameri, head of a rival list made up of former members of the mainly Shiite paramilitary units which helped the Iraqi armed forces defeat Daesh militants.
It is in the multi-ethnic, oil-rich northern province of Kirkuk that the challenge to the election results has been the strongest, and the most potentially explosive.
Kirkuk’s population made out of Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen pushed Iraqi authorities to impose a curfew on the night of the results.