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Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared yesterday that the operation in the Gaza Strip is not a singular event. "The operation is not a one-time event: neither in us going in, or us pulling out."

Speaking before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee yesterday, Olmert said that "everything is on the table - ground operations, air [strikes] and special operations."

He described the government's goals in the operation that ended early yesterday morning, and in others to come as "significantly decreasing the launch of indirect fire, and the weakening of Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip, in a way that will check its ability to control life in the Gaza Strip."

Olmert also stressed that negotiations with the Palestinians will continue. He said that without negotiations, Israel would be condemned by the international community, even if it behaved in a restrained and balanced manner.

"That which enables us to manifest our basic right to self defense is the political horizon. There is no way to prevent the 'Gazafication' process and the rise of Hamas in the West Bank without offering a political horizon. Whoever cannot recognize this is simply lying to himself," the Prime Minister said.

Olmert also argued that a military operation in the Strip had become necessary even without Ashkelon being targeted by Hamas.

"From the ethical point of view, shots fired against Netivot are no different from those fired on Ashkelon. The lives of those living in the communities bordering the Gaza Strip are just as important and precious as those of any Israeli."

The Prime Minister said he rejects the "lectures on morals" coming from outside Israel.