Barak: We'll use every resource to stop 'criminal' rocket fire from Gaza
Barak to MKs: This is all-out war against Hamas and its kind, we'll widen, deepen' Gaza offensive as needed.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said upon completing his daily briefing that the Israel Defense Forces will use every resource to bring about an end to Palestinian rocket fire.
Speaking at the end of the third day of deadly aerial assaults on the Gaza Strip, Barak said "if the criminal rocket fire aimed at Israeli civilians does not stop immediately, Israel will use all its resources and all the legal tools it possesses to force the enemy to stop this aggressive, illegal behavior," Barak declared.
The defense minister reiterated previous calls on the residents of the Gaza Strip to stay away from areas where terrorist activity exists. Barak added that humanitarian aid will continue to be transferred into Gaza even during warfare.
Earlier Monday, in the face of catcalls from Arab lawmakers, Barak told a stormy Knesset session that the operation in Gaza will be "widened and deepened as necessary."
"We have an all-out war against Hamas and its kind," Barak said, using a term he has employed in the past to describe a long-term struggle against Israel's Islamist enemies.
Barak also cited a comment made by U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, who visited Sderot during his election campaign earlier this year.
"Obama said that if rockets were being fired at his home while his two daughters were sleeping, he would do everything he could to prevent it," Barack told the plenum.
The defense minister went on to say that Israel is engaged in a "war to the bitter end" against Hamas in Gaza.
Barak added that the massive air assault Israel launched beginning Saturday is aimed not at Gaza's residents but at the territory's Hamas rulers. He said the operation's goal is to force Hamas to stop its hostile actions directed at Israeli civilians.
Barak said Israel quit all of Gaza three years ago to give a chance for a new reality on the ground, but that Hamas had used the territory as a terrorist haven.
"Hamas is responsible for everything that happens in Gaza and which emanates from it," the defense minister said. "This operation will be widened, deepened as we see fit."
Barak told the assembled lawmakers that the defense establishment spent months preparing for the Gaza operation.
Likud chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the Arab protests while calling on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to dismiss minister Raleb Majadele, the lone Arab serving in the cabinet.
Arab MKs repeatedly accused the government of waging a war for electioneering purposes and the defense minister of intentionally killing children. Russian-Israeli MK Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) proposed that the Arab lawmakers relocate to Gaza and not return. The Arab MKs retorted by calling him a "Fascist," and insisted that he should return to the country where he came from.
"There are those who are counting bodies and at the same time counting Knesset seats," Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi (Ra'am-Ta'al) said. "Bodies for votes - this is done primarily by the Labor Party."
"There are those who are profiting from Palestinian blood in order to get elected," Hadash chairman MK Mohammed Barakeh said. Barakeh and MK Taleb a-Sana were subsequently evicted from the plenum.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni lashed out at Hamas in her remarks, imploring foreign leaders to not judge Israel solely on the images broadcast on television screens.
"Israel is acting against Hamas and not against the population," Livni said. "We are once again making clear that whoever has complaints over the state of the population should take them to those who have responsibility over the situation there - Hamas."
Livni also made reference to Hani al-Mahdi, the 27-year-old man from Ar'ur, who was killed by a Palestinian rocket in Ashkelon on Monday. "A state must defend all of its citizens," she told the plenum. "I heard on the way here that Hamas announced that the man killed by the rocket in Ashkelon was one of the Zionists, even though he is an Israeli-Arab. They do not make this distinction."