JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel is prepared to use as much force as necessary to maintain security in the country’s south, which has come under increased rocket fire from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip during the past week.
Netanyahu made the comment during the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem after the Islamic Hamas movement announced the start of an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire to end the latest round of violence.
Militants fired about two dozen rockets and mortar shells into Israeli neighborhoods near Gaza City on Saturday, but no rockets were launched after the the cease-fire took effect overnight, an army spokeswoman said.
At least 150 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel since June 18, the army has said, and as many as 15 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire, according to Gaza medical officials.
The Muslim Brotherhood victory in the Egyptian presidential elections, announced Sunday, prompted celebrations in the Gaza Strip, where ecstatic residents flocked into the streets, fired guns in the air, and handed out candy.
The new president, Mohammed Morsi, has not yet said what plans he has for dealing with Gaza, which shares a 9-mile border with Egypt, which ruled Gaza from 1948 to 1967.
The Egyptian election raised fears in Israel that its 1979 peace agreement with its southern neighbor could be in danger.
The agreement, a cornerstone of Israeli security, ended decades of hostilities between the two countries and thousands of deaths.
Although relations have never been warm, Egypt has upheld the deal, keeping its bordering Sinai peninsula largely demilitarized, allowing the Israeli military to focus on hostile borders with the Palestinians, Syria, and Lebanon.
Netanyahu said Sunday that he respected the results of Egypt’s democratic process and hoped the peace agreement would remain intact.