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Defense Minister Amir Peretz urged EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana Tuesday to renew the EU embargo on the Palestinian unity government, and said that Israel was exercising great restraint in refraining, for the time being, from embarking on an extensive ground operation in Gaza.
The two met in Jerusalem to discuss the Kassam rocket attacks and IDF operations against Palestinian targets.
"We have taken everything into consideration, and for the time being we are biting our tongues and trying not to arrive at a situation where we are forced into a ground operation," Peretz told Solana. "Now is the time when European diplomacy, as well as the diplomatic efforts of the United States and the free world, is put to the test. Today I entreat you to announce that, as long as the escalation continues, all planned fund-transfers to Hamas and the [Palestinian] unity government will be frozen".
The defense minister went on to say that, while Israel had done everything it could to maintain calm and uphold the cease-fire, it would target Hamas terrorists as long as the Kassam rocket fire continued.
"Today, when Hamas is a member of the unity government and is the one leading the violence and backing the bombardments, we do not intend to stop. We will stop only when the rockets stop, and if they do not stop we will not stop. We are entrusted with protecting our citizens and our children," he said.
Peretz gave the EU foreign policy chief a firsthand account of the harsh daily reality that reigns in the bombarded town of Sderot. "My family and I live in [Sderot] and [contend with] trying sensations all year round," he said. "As a peaceful man I tell you- you should make it clear to the international community that it must retract the goodwill it displayed during the unity government's inception. The unity government has no control over the anarchy in the Gaza Strip and it lends legitimacy to murderous acts perpetrated within the PA and the continued bombardment of Israel."
Solana responded to Peretz's statements by saying that the international community condemned the Kassam attacks. "I visited Sderot yesterday and I am aware of what is happening there," the EU foreign policy chief said. "We are living in a time of heightening violence, not only in the PA but also in Lebanon and in other places. We wish very much to help calm the situation."
He maintained, however, that Israel must favor the diplomatic path in attempting to arrive at a solution. "The current situation is one that defies the possibility of victory, and violence will be of no use here. It is important to move onto diplomatic tracks. It is difficult, we know that, but it is important to take care of this now because people are suffering from the violence and the situation can deteriorate rapidly. Rest assured that we will do all we can and continue to do all we can to help."