olmert serious 298.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Israel is willing to hold its fire against Hamas if two conditions are met - a halt to terror and to weapons smuggling into Gaza via the Sinai Peninsula - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday, during a visit to Sderot.
Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were there for a meeting with industrialists, Histadrut leaders, and workers in the southern city's Osem factory.
"For seven long years, the residents of the South have absorbed unending [rocket] fire. What used to be small rockets turned into powerful rockets that reach a range of dozens of kilometers, and hundreds of thousands of residents are threatened by them almost daily," Olmert said.
Olmert added that US President-elect Barack Obama was convinced of Israel's right to defend itself.
"I am encouraged by the words President-elect Obama said in my home following a visit to Sderot. He said that if someone had fired [rockets] on the house where his daughters were, he would have reacted with all the power and the means he had in order to destroy [them].
"There is no better or more accurate way to express our feelings," Olmert said.
The prime minister made an implicit threat to Syria and Hizbullah, saying, "It must be clear - I don't compromise on security, not in the South and not anywhere else. Make no mistake regarding Israel's determination, decisiveness and our readiness on all of our borders. We are not deterred by any conflict or threat.
"We hope none of them will be put to the test - not our determination, nor our ability to react in any other place," he said.
Olmert expressed his sorrow over the deaths of the three Golani soldiers and one paratroop officer who were killed Monday night in separate friendly-fire incidents. He also sent his condolences to the family of St.-Sgt. Dvir Emmanueloff, 22, of Givat Ze'ev.
"We embrace the families and the wounded soldiers," Olmert said.
He stressed that "we have no interest in a long military campaign."
Barak's visit was kept secret until he had left the area, as was Olmert's. However, shortly after the defense minister's arrival, the Color Red alert was sounded and three rockets landed in the area.
Barak said Israel was ready for a tough fight.
"We are in the 11th day of Operation Cast Lead. This is a complicated operation. We knew it would be like this from the moment we decided on it, and last night we paid a heavy toll," Barak said.
He sent his condolences to the bereaved families and recovery wishes to the wounded soldiers. He added that he was impressed by the stamina of the home front.
"This is a tough war, but an inevitable one," he went on. "A state that wishes to continue to exist cannot allow a terror organization to interfere with its life and to make the lives of its citizens unbearable."