Sunday, 2 March 2008

Olmert: Don't preach morals to Israel

In cabinet meeting, prime minister slams international criticism leveled at Israel over Gaza operation, saying country has right to defend its citizens against rocket fire; Olmert vows military operation to continue

While Hamas and Palestinian Authority leaders have called on the international community to interfere and stop the escalation in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stressed Sunday that the military operation in the area to curb rocket attacks on Israel will continue.

"We shall act against the terrorist organizations and against those who launch the attacks, in accordance with the government's decision," Olmert told the cabinet. "If anyone believes that by expanding the rocket range he will be able to reduce the strikes against the terror groups – he is gravely mistaken.

"It should be made clear that the State of Israel has no intention to stop fighting them even for one moment," the prime minister stressed.

Referring to the Palestinian and international criticism against Israel over the killing of civilians in Gaza, Olmert said, "I don’t recall hearing these people this claim that the situation in Israel's south is unbearable when Israeli civilians were hurt.

"It needs to be kept in mind that the State of Israel is defending its civilians in the south. No one has the right to preach morals to Israel, which must take the fundamental action of defending its residents against the rocket fire," he stated.

As for the negotiations with the Palestinians that have reportedly been frozen by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Olmert said: "Naturally, we are interested in continuing the diplomatic talks… no one can deny that hurting Hamas encourages the peace process with the moderate elements with which we are negotiating."

Earlier Sunday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel needed to prepare for a possible escalation of military action in the Gaza Strip.

"We will continue our action with all our strength and we need to prepare for escalation, because a broad ground operation is real and tangible," Barak told Israel Radio.


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