Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday that Hezbollah had tripled its strength since the 2006 war in Lebanon, and that the pro-Iranian organization now possesses 42,000 rockets, some of which are capable of striking Ashkelon, Yerucham, and Dimona, Army Radio reported.

In a rare speech to the Knesset plenum, Barak defended himself against critics who had called for a massive offensive in the Gaza Strip, saying that Israel would not become hostage to a lone Qassam rocket.

"A Gaza operation will not hasten the return of Gilad Shalit," Barak declared in reference to the IDF soldier held captive by Hamas for more than two years. Israel would soon need to make tough decisions on the matter. "Those who are calling for conquering Gaza, should state the consequences out loud.

"This is not a reality show, we're speaking about human lives," Barak continued.

Barak said that he would suggest that those who urge a "one bang and that's all" approach to an IDF onslaught in Gaza, "should stop and think. It's been two years since the Second Lebanon War. Before sending soldiers into battle, we must look into the eyes of every mother and father, and say that we did everything, before sending them."

The temporary cease-fire in Gaza allows Israel to prepare better, and affords it greater flexibility of action regarding Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, Barak added. "This is too serious a subject for a political argument."

Drawing a parallel to the Gaza situation, he alluded to the markedly strengthened Hezbollah and asked, "Does anyone truly want to recapture Lebanon?"