Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday that counter-terror operations in Gaza would continue, adding that the Hamas was dealt "a heavy blow" in the recent IDF activity. The defense minister was speaking during a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. Solana said that the political process was "essential," and expressed hope for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. Later, during a Labor faction meeting, Barak paid tribute to the army for carrying out a "high-level" operation and said that the cooperation between the IDF, IAF and intelligence services was particularity praiseworthy. He stressed that the ultimate goal of the operation was to restore calm to the residents of southern Israel. "We will achieve this," he pledged, and added that the IDF would come out on top in the continuing military campaign. Barak offered his condolences to the families of Eran Dan-Gur and Doron Asulin, the two soldiers killed in the operation and the family of Roni Yihye, the fatality from last week's Kassam attack on Sapir College outside Sderot.