olmert sderot 298.88.
(photo credit: GPO)
"There is no immediate solution to the Kassam attacks," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert acknowledged Monday night on a visit to rocket-hit Sderot.
"We will continue to invest and will continue to protect you, but you of course know that there is no immediate solution to the Kassams and there is no definitive solution," Olmert told residents of western Negev town, according to a statement from his office.
The prime minister pledged to speed up the process of reinforcing homes to protect against the rockets. "I understand your anger, frustration and hardship," he added.
Olmert joined a parade of dignitaries on solidarity visits to Sderot that included EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, British Ambassador Tom Phillips, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and Israel Police Chief Insp.-Gen. David Cohen.
Olmert's unannounced visit to the city and neighboring communities Monday night was his second in five days, and part of a government policy to give the residents a sense that they were not being forgotten.
Sderot kids don't want to stay when they grow up
Although intermittent Kassam attacks forced demonstrators and police alike to run for cover behind walls, a mob of angry residents staged a protest in front of the community center where Solana and Livni were holding a press conference.
Livni said during the conference that Israel did not consider a cease-fire feasible, because to Hamas it was only an opportunity to rearm and not to adhere to the true meaning of a cease-fire.
"Tzipi Livni, you're a whore! Quit! Quit!" angry Sderot residents shouted, charging at a car in which they thought the foreign minister was traveling.
When Livni emerged from a different car several moments later, protesters threw trash and various objects at the vehicle. What began as a peaceful but heated protest ended as a melee when rioters surged toward the armored cars, which sped away, as rioters dove out of their path.
Earlier Monday, Phillips visited Sderot to meet Mayor Eli Moyal and residents, as well as to see some of the damage caused in the town by recent rocket attacks.
"This was the third time I have visited Sderot since my arrival in Israel last August, and I wanted to understand the impact of these latest Kassam attacks and personally to express the sympathy of my government to the people of Sderot for the suffering they are undergoing," said Phillips.
"I heard many moving stories and also saw much to admire in the way people are coping with an extremely difficult situation." he said.
"The Palestinians must stop these attacks. Israel is in a difficult position, and has the right to defend itself from such attacks against its civilians. But any response should be in accordance with international law, and should seek to avoid civilian casualties," Phillips continued.
Meanwhile, the EU's ambassador to Israel, Ramiro Cibri n-Uzal, echoed the British ambassador's sentiments, saying that the EU recognized that Israel had a right and obligation to defend its citizens, but also expected it to act within the principles of two values it shared with the EU: "proportionality" and the "use of minimum necessary force."
Cibri n-Uzal said that it was not his position to give grades on whether Israel's recent military actions in the Gaza Strip fell within those two parameters.
Cibrian-Uzal, in a press briefing in Jerusalem, responded to reports that Israel was considering placing an international force on the Philadelphi Corridor to prevent smuggling by saying there had been no request by either Israel or the EU for such a force.
He said that the EU was not involved in peacemaking missions, but rather in peacekeeping missions. He said that there were two conditions for the EU to even consider such a force - a request by both Israel and the PA, and the existence of a "permissive" environment in which to operate. Neither of these conditions have been met, he said.
In a related development, The European Union agreed Monday to extend its EUBAM mission monitoring the Rafah border crossing for another year, with the option of extending for an additional six months after that. The mission has been in place there since November 2005.
Israel and the EU have been negotiating extending EUBAM's mission for months, and the EU's decision to extend it was made in Brussels, even though the negotiations were continuing. Diplomatic officials said that although the decision was made to extend the mandate, the actual modalities were still under discussion.
Israel's position is that force's current mandate was not wide enough to make it effective, and Jerusalem would like to see its powers expanded considerably.