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Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, on a tour of rocket-battered Be'er Sheva Wednesday, said Israel will not allow Hamas "thugs" to rule in the Middle East.

"We have made a change in the equation, gone are the days in which Hamas fired at us and we kept quiet," Livni said. "They erred in thinking that when Israel restrained itself, it would not respond."

Livni said Israel cares about its citizens while at the same time Hamas does not care about its own.

"They use women and children in order to defend terrorists. We will not allow these thugs to rule in the Middle East," she said.

Earlier, President Shimon Peres visited Ashkelon as Qassam rockets pounded the southern city, and vowed that "the IDF is ready for any scenario."

During his tour, Peres met with Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin and officers from the Home Front Command, and was given an assessment of the security situation in the city.

Peres also visited the city's Barzilai Hospital, where he met with Bedouin laborers wounded by a Qassam strike on Monday that killed 27-year-old Israeli construction worker Hani al Mahdi, from the Bedouin village of Aroer.

Peres refused to elaborate on how long he thinks the IDF operation will last, but did say that "our army shows sensitivity and doesn't hurt civilians as much as possible, even though the terrorists hiding in family homes."

Peres added "this is not a war that we started; it is a provocation that had carried on for months. We left Gaza and we have no interest there."