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Israel's defense minister has asked the government keep the "special" status
Israel's defense minister has asked the government keep the "special" status of Sderot and communities close to the Gaza Strip due to frequent Palestinian rocket attacks, Israeli media said on Friday.

The special status order, which allows Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to manage the towns, expired about a month ago. If approved by the Cabinet, the renewed order will be later submitted for consideration by the parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and will be valid until the end of March 2008.

According to the Israeli military, since 2001 Palestinian militants have fired over 4,500 rockets and mortar shells at Sderot alone, including 20 mortar shells and about 30 rockets in the past week.

On Thursday, a Qassam rocket launched by Palestinian militants wounded a female resident of Sderot. In response, the Israeli army carried out an airstrike in northern Gaza, killing three Islamic Jihad militants.

The Israeli Haaretz newspaper cited Barak and other defense officials as saying the IDF would continue its limited attacks in Gaza in response to the rocket and mortar fire by Palestinian militants.

A broader military operation is not on the agenda at present, defense sources said.

After a recent Mideast peace conference in the U.S. city of Annapolis, Tel Aviv insisted that Palestinian authorities put a stop to attacks by militants against Israel as a requirement for the brokering of a peace deal.


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