PM: Gaza ops to go on until goals met

"No intention to occupy Gaza," says PM; 3 would-be suicide bombers caught.

Hamas supporters 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Hamas supporters 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ignored calls from the international community on Sunday, including the pope, to end the IDF's operation in Gaza. "We will continue until our goals have been achieved," he told the cabinet at its weekly meeting. "We have no intention of either remaining in, or occupying, Gaza. But we do intend to put a halt to terrorism from Gaza," he said.
  • Terrorists threaten to renew attacks if Gaza operation continues On the fifth day of Operation Autumn Clouds, as the death toll among Palestinians rose to 48, Pope Benedict XVI said he was worried about the "grave deterioration" in Gaza. He called on Palestinians and Israelis to stop the bloodshed and to resume "direct, serious and concrete negotiations." The European Union made a similar plea, and accused Israel of acting against international humanitarian law. "The right of all states to defend themselves does not justify disproportionate use of violence," the EU said. Most of the Palestinians who had been killed had been armed, Olmert told the cabinet. He blamed civilian casualties on the Palestinians, who he said were using innocent people as human shields. He said the IDF had been instructed to avoid harming civilians. Olmert said the focus of the operation, in which one soldier has been killed, was Islamic Jihad and Hamas, who were planning terrorist attacks. On Sunday, terrorists fired six rockets from the northern Gaza Strip. "We have informed the world that we do not intend to countenance continued Kassam rocket barrages against Sderot and other nearby Israeli communities," Olmert said. Defense Minister Amir Peretz told the cabinet that the terrorists seemed surprised by the scope of the operation in Beit Hanun. The IDF took control of Beit Hanun, including its market, on Friday, he said. Peretz said he had worked with international organizations to supply water, food and medicine to the area. The International Committee of the Red Cross on Sunday criticized the IDF operation. Two 17-year-old paramedics were killed in Gaza last week. On Sunday, some 100 paramedics marched through the streets of Gaza City in protest. They held up the torn and bloodied vests the two teens had worn. "The ICRC is appalled by this failure to protect personnel engaged in emergency medical duties," a Red Cross statement released Sunday said. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh called the IDF offensive a "massacre." Beit Hanun residents warned of a growing humanitarian crisis. "We have electricity, but no drinking water," said a 28-year-old woman. She said there were shortages of staples such as milk and diapers, and that residents had been forced to share food as supplies ran low. She also said tanks were visible from her home, and that her husband was taken away by soldiers for questioning. "I don't know what's happened to him," she said. Meanwhile, talks progressed on the formation of a PA government that might be acceptable to the West and bring crippling international sanctions to an end. The plan being discussed calls for a government of technocrats without ties to Hamas or Fatah. Hamas would be allowed to appoint eight government ministers to Fatah's four, and smaller factions would get one seat each - meaning Hamas would retain control of the cabinet. The political program would be intentionally vague over whether the new government met the West's conditions for ending the boycott: recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and acceptance of existing peace deals. Peretz said the plan didn't meet the requirements set by the Quartet in which the PA would have to quell terrorist activity and recognize Israel. Peretz reported that Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped by Hamas in late June, was alive. As for the threat by Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees to renew suicide attacks within 48 hours if the Gaza operation is not halted, Peretz said it was the terrorists who should be afraid. AP contributed to this report.