Olmert: Gaza offensive to go on until Israel's aims achieved
Defense officials deny plan to propose 48-hour truce; MI: IAF offensive has destroyed one-third of Hamas rockets.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday that Israel's military offensive on the Gaza Strip would continue for as long as necessary to achieve the goals of the defense establishment against the ruling Hamas regime.
"The Gaza offensive has begun and will not end.... until our goals our reached, we are continuing according to the plan," Olmert said.
The prime minister's statement came in response to reports that defense officials intended to recommend a 48-hour truce to abate the war against Hamas and embark on a temporary truce before it became necessary to begin a significant ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.
Shin Bet and Israel Defense Forces officials on Tuesday denied reports that the defense establishment planned to recommend a temporary truce based on an initiative originally proposed by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.
The goal of the temporary calm would have been to see if Hamas can abide by the truce and cease firing rockets at Israel.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Kouchner plan to visit Israel next Monday, to discuss the situation in Gaza. It is likely that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will make her own visit to France prior to the French officials' Monday visit.
Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer decried the announcement of a 48-hour truce proposal as soon as it was released, saying such a compromise would buy Hamas time to reorganize.
"Hamas has not suffered enough damage in the recent strikes," he said.
The government said on Tuesday it was prepared to work with France and other governments on increasing aid flows into the Gaza Strip
"We want to see convoy after convoy of humanitarian support and we are willing to work closely with all relevant international parties to facilitate that goal," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokesman, Mark Regev, said when asked about the French proposal for a 48-hour humanitarian truce.
"At the same time, it is important to keep the pressure up on Hamas, not give them a respite, time to regroup and reorganize," Regev added.
Earlier, Hamas official Mushir al-Masri said: "We are not begging for calm and there is no room to talk about calm amid the continued aggression and siege." Hamas has said a cease-fire must be accompanied by a lifting of Israel's Gaza blockade.
Meanwhile, the Military Intelligence assessed Tuesday that the air offensive has destroyed one-third of the Hamas rocket arsenal, Channel 10 television reported.
Peres: Gaza operation is like no other Israeli war
President Shimon Peres said earlier Tuesday that as a man who had lived through all of Israel's war, he could confirm that the Israel Defense Force's current operation in the Gaza Strip was like no other.
Speaking to reporters along side IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, Peres said that the goal of the current operation was not just to stop the continuing rocket fire from Gaza, but to put a halt to terror worldwide.
"Terror is a worldwide problem, and it is ours as well," Peres said.
Both Peres and Ashkenazi said then that it was too early to tell when the operation would come to an end. Ashkenazi said he was "very satisfied" with the success of the operation so far.
Both the president and the IDF Chief thanked residents of the south for the strength and courage they have exhibited throughout the operation.
Peres also warned residents of the south to follow the IDF's security instructions, saying: "We have had our casualties, but they could have been prevented had they followed the IDF's instructions.
Olmert and Peres held a meeting earlier Tuesday morning at the President's Residence in Jerusalem. The premier updated Peres on the latest developments as the Israel Defense Forces offensive in Gaza enters its fourth day.
Olmert told the president that the military operation is still in its initial stages, and that the security cabinet is granting the IDF as much wiggle room as it needs in order to reach the goals of the operation as declared by the government.
"Israel is not fighting the Palestinian population but a terrorist organization whose raison d'etre is continued violence and destabilizing the region," said Peres, who also remarked that Hamas bears responsibility for the situation unfolding in Gaza.
"Nobody in this world understands what are Hamas' goals and why it continues to fire missiles," the president said. "This shooting has no point, no logic, and no chance."