Olmert: We won’t halt Gaza operations even for a second

By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent and Reuters

    “Let me be clear, Israel has no intention of stopping the fight against terror for a second, and we will act according to the blueprint set by the government at a time and intensity of our choosing, in order to strike the terror organizations and those who provide them with cover and the ability to operate,”

The prime minister said the Katyusha rocket fire at the southern city of Ashkelon was in response to the assassination of five Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip last week. The militants were en route to carrying out a major terror attack, and therefore, according to Olmert, Hamas decided to retaliate by firing rockets deeper into Israeli territory.

Barak: IDF to broaden operation against rocket squads

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Sunday that the Israel Defense Forces operation against Gaza rocket squads would broaden, and reiterated earlier comments that a major ground offensive was a real and tangible option.

“We are not happy about it, we won’t shy from it,” Barak told Israel Radio.

“There are many considerations about the timing,” he said, without elaborating.

Barak spoke a day after two IDF soldiers and 63 Palestinians were killed in an operation in northern Gaza City, launched in response to escalating rocket fire by Gaza militants last week.

The defense minister said in a separate interview on Army Radio: “This is not the broad ground operation, but whoever says there will not be a big ground operation speaks on his own behalf.”

One aim of any broad incursion into Gaza would be to “weaken the Hamas rule, in the right circumstances even bring it down,” he said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and top defense officials were to meet on Sunday to discuss their next moves in Gaza, though the IDF policy is not expected to change. Olmert and Barak are said to support more actions like the ones over the weekend.

Israel on Saturday began delivering messages to senior officials in the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations that it did not intend to reoccupy Gaza, though continued terror might give it no choice.

The weekend’s events were the result of a decision Friday by Barak and Olmert to step up activity within the current policy.

Olmert reportedly wants a three-pronged goal: stop the Qassam launches, bring down Hamas and move the peace process ahead. But it is unclear if any of these objectives can be achieved.

Olmert has been quoted as saying that he is “very worried about the situation, but before any change in policy, present policy must be seen to have been exhausted.” Olmert has said repeatedly that the leaders of Hamas and other terror organizations are not immune.

The events over the weekend are expected to dilute some of the criticism of Olmert’s policy by certain ministers. In Sunday’s cabinet meeting, some ministers are expected to call for a significant escalation, mainly a renewal of artillery fire on rocket launchers.

Ministers Eli Yishai (Shas), Haim Ramon (Kadima) and Ami Ayalon (Labor) support such an escalation; they are said to be planning to propose that the IDF fire on built-up areas from which Qassams are being launched. This would come after residents are informed that they should evacuate their homes. Such an action, these ministers say, is acceptable under international law.

[I hope that my article Bomb Gaza. Win the War in which I recommended this, informed their decision.}

The security cabinet will meet Wednesday for its first discussion on the situation in the Gaza Strip since the breaching of the Gaza-Egypt border fence around six weeks ago. The prime minister, defense minister and foreign minister have already discussed the matter among themselves. A few weeks ago, Ayalon sent a letter of protest to the three ministers calling for the security cabinet to meet.

A number of cabinet ministers have said the security cabinet has not been convened because Barak is against it. Barak has said he is worried about leaks from the security cabinet, but government officials say he fears criticism in the security cabinet over the IDF’s actions in Gaza.

An official in Barak’s bureau said: “If there is something specific to approve, then the cabinet is needed. But if it’s only for show, there is no reason [to call a meeting].”

Barak and Ayalon clashed over this issue two weeks ago in a cabinet meeting. “Everyone sitting at the cabinet table was elected to take part in decision making.” Barak replied that he did not want the meeting and that “it was not about a press conference.” Over Barak’s opposition, Olmert accepted Ayalon’s stance and pledged that the meeting would be held.

March 2, 2008 | 3 Comments »

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  1. Attacks Widen: Netivot, Psagot and Jerusalem Under Fire

    by Ezra HaLevi

    (IsraelNN.com) The city of Netivot, in the western Negev, as well as the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo came under fire Saturday night after midnight.

    A Grad-type Katyusha rocket was fired from Gaza, landing in the Negev town of Netivot before dawn Sunday morning. It landed near the grave of famed Morrocan Jewish Kabbalist Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira, the Baba Sali, in an open field. No injuries or damage were reported, though the landing was only the second in Netivot’s recent history, bringing the residents of another large town within regular firing-range of the new rocket-arsenal from Gaza.

    Posters around Netivot prior to the 2005 Disengagement warned residents that a Gaza withdrawal would lead to their homes being shelled.

    Gilo Back in the Firing Line
    Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood was once again fired upon from PA-controlled Beit Jalla. The attacks were a regular occurrence at the start of the Oslo War, resulting in the construction of huge concrete barriers and the eventual dismantling of PA infrastructure in the area during Operation Defensive Shield.

    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has revived the PA and authorized armed Fatah members to operate in Bethlehem and the Beit Jallah suburb.

    Terrorists Fire on Community of Psagot
    Terrorists opened fire toward IDF soldiers near the Jewish town of Psagot in the Binyamin region on Saturday night. No soldiers were injured in the attack.

    Psagot is on the outskirts of Ramallah, the seat of power of the Fatah branch of the Palestinian Authority. Fatah is controlled by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and receives millions of dollars in funding and weapons training from the United States.

    Earlier Saturday, Arabs threw Molotov cocktails at soldiers in Hevron. An Arab man who attempted to throw a bomb at soldiers in Beit Oumar was wounded when the bomb blew up in his hand; he was taken to an Israeli hospital for treatment.

    Gaza Expellees Get Warning Siren, Still No Shelter
    Hundreds of Jewish families living in the temporary village of Nitzan have begun hearing the “Color Red” warning system, which has been put into use in coastal towns near Ashkelon. However, residents of the village continue to live in caravans, and have no sheltered space to run to in case of missile or rocket attacks.

    “There is no protection in the area and no option to hide. We are exposed to fire and to danger with no possibility to seek protection anywhere,” a spokesman for the community said Saturday. A rocket that landed on a caravan last week destroyed the caravan completely, he added.

    Ashkelon Preemies Taken to Reinforced Rooms
    Staff members in Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon moved all premature babies to a protected room reinforced against rocket strikes on Saturday, at the request of the IDF Home Front Command. The move was made just two days after several Grad-type Katyusha rockets landed in Ashkelon, some near the hospital.

    Several people were wounded in rocket strikes in Ashkelon on Saturday. The decision to move some immobile patients to sheltered rooms was seen as a lesson from the Second Lebanon War, when many rocket attack victims were taken to hospitals that were not reinforced against rocket attacks.

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  2. Israel Hits Murderous Office in Gaza

    ISL – Gaza

    In another great military victory for the Israeli Defense Forces, an entire office, belonging to PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh from the Hamas, was obliterated. Fortunately, the office was empty so no innocent terrorists were hurt in the daring, pre-dawn raid.
    Minister of Defense Ehud Barak praised the Israeli Air Force which managed a direct hit at the terrorist office without damaging any other nearby innocent offices, “In accordance with international law Israel takes great care in preserving the lives of innocent buildings,” Barak said, “Even though in this case, as in many others, the vile terrorists hide their offices among many other, civilian offices”.

    PM Haniyeh himself said that he was glad that the Israel destroyed his office, “I hated it – the color scheme was terrible and the view of Gaza city was even worse.”
    The Palestinian PM also said that he already has prepared the plans for a new office which will be done in the Bauhaus style – I am a great fan of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe,” said the PM, “And I’m really excited about the new décor.”

    Israeli PM Ehud Olmert praised the decisive action and especially pointed out the diligence of the forces in sparing the lives of Haniyeh and his henchmen, “Sooner or later we will have to talk with Haniyeh or someone like him so there is no point in killing him, in fact, it will only make matters worse,” said Olmert,

    “‘Better the genocidal maniac you know’ is our policy,” said the PM.

    The PM’s office is already preparing the Next Great 10-Year Peace Plan which will deeply involve the radical Hamas, “Nobody likes to be left out, especially dedicated anti-Semitic murderers and criminals like the Hamas so, in this respect, it is obvious that we have to bear some of the responsibility for the situation in Gaza,” Olmert said.
    Olmert added that he hopes that the ritual hostilities will be over as quickly as possible so that the Peace talks between the parties can resume, “I need at least one Peace Conference a week or else I’m just not myself,” Olmert admitted.

    OK, really, can someone tell me why destroying an office is news? Did the office kill anybody? Did it organize attacks? Was it a genocidal office? Have we sunk so low we are now attacking holes and offices?
    In my humble opinion, we are the victims of a state of mind and until we change this state of mind, nothing will really change.

    For instance: Leftists maybe voting for Bibi is nice but I think an apology is also warranted – after all, the Meretz Peace has killed so many people and ruined the lives of literally millions, Jews and Arabs, that the least people like Yael should do is admit their mistake, apologize and do everything they can to correct it – starting from punishing, even ostracizing, their own guilty, lying leaders – in the media, politics and the Supreme Court.
    Sorry, end of rant.

  3. Israel’s toughly worded policy as regards Hamas has finally been backed with a bit of military might and a promise that there will be more military might to come.

    It appears therefore that Olmert and his government as regards their mandate to defend Israel, are feeling somewhat less constrained in those defence efforts by the predictable U.N. and EU knee jerk accusations that Israel has employed disproportionate force against the Palestinians.

    Does this signal a change in Olmert’s fundamental thinking as regards the “peace process”? Probably not given the following extract from Ha’aretz:

    With reference to suspended peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, Olmert said: “We have clarified in the past that negotiations will not come at the expense of defending our citizens and fighting terror.”

    “Everyone understands that harming Hamas means strengthening the chances for peace, and the more we harm Hamas, the more the chances for peace will grow. In addition, the moderate Palestinian leadership understands this,” the prime minister added.

    As for going after Hamas, the GOI ought to have taken this tough action and more, in the first days that the Hamas rocket attacks began. Instead, the Olmert government has dithered for well over a year in this regard.

    What prompted Olmert to move against Hamas was that the growing anger in Israel over the paralysis of the Olmert government in the face of Hamas aggression, was beginning to reach critical levels where the Olmert government could see they were putting their leadership position at risk.

    Assuming the GOI’s current offensive against Hamas carries on and is successful in weakening Hamas, it likely will strengthen Abbas and Fatah.

    Without a clear new toughly worded GOI policy that tells the world that Abbas’ Fatah’s steadfast maximal positions for peace negotiations are all non-starters, it will only be Abbas and Fatah that is strengthened, by any success Israel has against Hamas.

    As has been noted by a number of pundits before, the Western and Israeli so called “peace process” has been and will remain nothing more then a “war process” for the Palestinians/Arabs. To suggest Abbas and Fatah are moderate voices, is so much delusional wishful thinking and thus in a word, nonsense.

    The Olmert government continues to ignore the reality that the “peace process” that it seeks to push forward is irreconcilably different then the “war process” the Palestinians/Arabs pursue.

    Israel is imperiled by the Olmert government’s unwillingness or inability to see that for the Palestinians/Arabs, their issue is not at all about mutual recognition of rights to exist and territorial sovereignty for both, but rather the elimination of Israel, taking all of Israel for themselves and in that way and only in that way, bring peace to the region.