Israel will employ measures to counter the ongoing Palestinian rocket fire on the western Negev, but such measures will not include an invasion of the Gaza Strip, President Shimon Peres told the London-based newspaper Asharq al-Awsat in a report published on Saturday. The president's comments were made ahead of the Israeli Air Force's 'Solid Lead' operation, which included massive air strikes on Hamas targets but no ground incursion so far. "Israel will take all steps demanded of it in order to stop the rocket fire," Peres told the paper just hours before the operation began. "We will not go into Gaza. There are other ways - we didn't leave Gaza in order go back." "The problem is that Hamas wants to do in the West Bank what they did in Gaza, to start another uprising," Peres continued. "That's what scares the Israelis. Therefore, I say it is [Hamas] which is preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state. Without Hamas, there would've already been a Palestinian state." Responding to a question about Israel's willingness for peace, the president emphasized that it was Hamas, not Israel which was preventing diplomatic process from moving forward. "For the past sixty years, a number of wars have been fought, but in recent years we have turned towards peace," the president said. "I have signed peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, and we have withdrawn from their territory to the very last centimeter. We have withdrawn from Lebanon, and it is possible to say that we have no conflict with Lebanon. Currently we have negotiations with Syria, and we have begun very advanced negotiations with the Palestinians." "The problem with the Palestinians is that Hamas doesn't want these steps to lead to peace," he said.