Israel wants Gaza multinational force to fight Hamas

A proposed multinational force deployed along the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt must be willing to fight the Islamic militant group Hamas to stop weapons smuggling in the area, Israel's Foreign Minister said Friday.

Tzipi Livni said Israel was not interested in any proposal involving a monitoring force for the Philadelphi corridor where, she said, Hamas uses tunnels to bring in weapons. Hamas gained control of the Gaza Strip on Thursday after days of heavy fighting with Fatah forces.

"Those who are talking in terms of international forces have to understand that the meaning is not monitoring forces but forces that are willing to fight, to confront Hamas on the ground," Livni said.

"The question is the effectiveness of these (multinational) forces. We don't need monitors to come in to tell us about the (smuggling), we need someone to stop it," she told a news conference during an official visit to Portugal.

The border crossing was monitored by European observers until earlier this week when fighting between Hamas and Fatah forces forced them to withdraw.

Livni rejected the possibility of deploying an international force inside the Gaza Strip.

"I don't think that this is relevant ... when the situation is that Hamas controls everything," she said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon discussed the possible deployment of a multinational force in Gaza with the Security Council on Wednesday. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday proposed stationing international forces along the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt to prevent arms from reaching Palestinian militants.

Livni said the Gaza Strip fighting was "an internal problem" for Palestinians.

"Let's wait and see what the Palestinians do," she said. "We are waiting. We are watching the situation very closely."

She urged the international community to join Israel in strengthening the strategy of isolating extremist movements, such as Hamas, and encouraging moderates, including Fatah.