Barak: Gaza op to continue amid diplomatic efforts for truce
Livni: IDF success in offensive will aid Palestinians; IDF Chief: We seek to further batter Hamas.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday said that the Israel Defense Forces would continue its campaign against Hamas in Gaza alongside diplomatic efforts to achieve a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group.
"The operation is ongoing, alongside our monitoring of diplomatic efforts. We heard yesterday, and we respect, the request by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and we are also monitoring the treatment of the Egyptian initiative," the defense minister said.
Barak was referring to Ban's intention to step up efforts to get Israel and Hamas to adhere to a UN cease-fire resolution in the Gaza Strip.
But he stressed: "The warfare, as stated, is continuing."
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, meanwhile, said on Tuesday the IDF offensive was serving the interest of the Palestinian people, as well as that of Israel.
Livni said the operation's success would help all moderate forces in the region, including Palestinians who believe in a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She made the comments at a meeting with a delegation from the American Jewish Committee.
The foreign minister said that Israel engaged in dialogue with moderates, but used force against extremists.
Livni, a prime ministerial hopeful, added that the Palestinian Islamist group was showing signs of distress in Gaza, although its leadership in Damascus was not displaying this. She said that there was a large gap between what Hamas officials were saying in private and public.
IDF Chief: We'll continue Gaza op to further batter Hamas
In her comments, Livni was echoing similar remarks made on Tuesday by Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, who said his troops have inflicted damage on Hamas in Gaza, but would continue fighting to achieve more.
"We are working to deepen the blow to its military arm, reduce [Hamas] fire, strengthen [Israeli] deterrence and improve the security situation for residents of southern Israel living under the threat of attacks," he told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Ashkenazi said IDF soldiers are doing exceptional work and that Hamas infrastructure and government institutions had also been dealt a serious blow.
But he added that, "We still have work to do."
The rocket fire sparked the offensive Israel launched on Dec. 27, but has continued despite it, although with a somewhat lower intensity.
The chief of staff's comments came after an IDF officer was critically wounded Tuesday in Gaza, and as the army killed about 30 gunmen in the coastal territory on the 18th day of Israel's campaign against Hamas.
On Thursday, Ashkenazi visted the Gaza Strip on Thursday, where he received an assesment of the IDF's campaign against Hamas in the Strip.