Israel's military actions in Gaza will continue, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledged from Los Angeles Wednesday, adding that compromising with Hamas would be tantamount to compromising with Iran. Olmert, wrapping up a five-day visit to the US, was briefed on the situation throughout the day by Defense Minister Amir Peretz.
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Prior to an Israeli Bonds meeting in LA, Olmert told reporters "our actions in Gaza will continue." He said that decisions would need to be taken on what additional steps to take, but "we will continue to fight the murderous terror emanating from Gaza."
In what appeared to be a response to critics arguing that Israel has been too weak in trying to stop the steady barrage of Kassam attacks on Sderot, Olmert said that the IDF has been operating inside the Gaza Strip for a long time, and "lately an intensive operation in Beit Hanoun ended, in the course of which dozens of Hamas operatives and terrorists were killed."
During his appearance before the Bonds group, Olmert lashed out at what he said was the US Security Council's hypocrisy, pointing out that while that body met to condemn Israel for last weeks errant shell that killed 21 people in Beit Hanoun, it did not meet to condemn the continuous firing of Kassam rockets on Israel.
He said that he discussed earlier in the week with US President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice the US veto of a UN Security Council condemnation of Israel for its actions in Gaza.
Referring to what happened in Beit Hanoun, Olmert said "even now I am sure that was an unlucky incident that I am sorry about. This is a war, and sometimes, unfortunately even when you try to prevent it, innocent civilians are hurt. We do everything to prevent that. We have no interest in that and we take precautionary measures. When it happens, it is a failure for us because we want to hit only the terrorists, and we will reach them."
By contrast, Olmert said, when the other side hits civilians "they see it as a success. They are shooting to kill innocent civilians in Israeli cities. Today they cannot say that we are occupying Gaza, because Israel is not holding on to one centimeter of land in Gaza."
Olmert said that the fact that the shooting of rockets continues proves what Israel has been saying for many years, "they are irresponsible terrorists, murderers, fanatical extremists, and we need to unite to defeat them. It is not easy, but we will continue to try and hit the terrorists and defeat them before they kill Israeli citizens."
Olmert called Hamas the "greatest enemy" which represents extremism and the "Teheran spirit." He said that while he would continue his efforts to work with Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, "anyone who suggests compromising with Hamas suggests compromising with Iran."
Meanwhile, a few condemnations of the Sderot attack came in, including one from British Foreign Office Minister, Kim Howells, and another from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Howells said in a statement "We utterly deplore this morning's rocket attack on Sderot, and send our condolences to the families of those killed and injured. We call on the Palestinian Authority to take action to end these attacks, and on all parties to prevent further civilian suffering."
And the ICRC issued a statement deploring the attack, with Dominik Stillhart, head of the delegation in Israel, saying that "Not only are attacks against civilians prohibited under international humanitarian law, but they fuel a cycle of violence that inevitably generates more loss, suffering and grief."
The statement called "on the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian militants to respect the principles of international humanitarian law, particularly their obligation to spare and protect civilians at all times."
Olmert is scheduled to meet California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa before flying back to Israel. He is due to return Thursday at midnight.