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(photo credit: Associated Press)
Defense Minister Amir Peretz declared on Thurday that the IDF was to establish a "special security zone" in southern Lebanon in order to keep Hizbullah from approaching the Israeli-Lebanese border.
The decision - reminiscent of the 40 kilometer security zone established during the 1982 Lebanon War - was reached in order to "create a territory that is clean of Hizbullah outposts."
"They will no be able to return," Peretz asserted in a joint press conference with Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, adding "we will not agree to the raising of the Hizbullah flag over Israel's [border]."
The defense minister stated that when the two soldiers, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, were kidnapped, Israel decided to launch the offensive.
"No longer will a terrorist organization threaten the State of Israel," he insisted, "No longer will there be such a threat without a determined response."
Peretz expressed great appreciation at the northern residents, whose daily lives have been disrupted, but, as the defense minister said, even from the bomb shelters and secured rooms they call upon the State to continue the fighting. "Do not relent, do not stop until you have change the situation," he quoted the northern residents as saying.
He turned to both the Lebanese and Palestinian public, assuring them that Israel's attack was not directed at them, but at the terrorist organizations operating from their midst. He told them extremist elements in the region were using them in a completely irresponsible manner to serve Iranian interests.
Halutz summarized the bloody battle in Bint Jbail on Wednesday in which eight soldiers were killed, saying that Israel had paid a heavy price, but the Hizbullah paid more dearly.
The chief of staff asserted that the IDF knew of hundreds of Hizbullah operatives - including senior officers - who were killed by the Israeli offensive, though he would not mention any names.