PM: Renewed Hamas confrontation inevitable

Olmert, Barak tour IDF Southern Command; defense minister: IDF prepared, alert, for any possibility.

olmert barak ashkenazi 248  (photo credit: IDF)
olmert barak ashkenazi 248
(photo credit: IDF)
In the shadow of renewed conflict with Hamas, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited the IDF's Southern Command headquarters on Tuesday. They were accompanied by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, and briefed by Southern Command Chief Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant, who provided detailed explanations on the state of the cease-fire, IDF actions in the area and the preparations being made by a Hamas-led coalition of Gaza-based terror groups. "It is merely a question of when and not a question of if," said Olmert, speaking after the briefing on the possibility of renewed conflict. "We are not looking forward to this but neither are we afraid, and if there is a need to fight Hamas, we'll do that," he added. During his visit, Olmert met with paratroopers who are carrying out operations along the Gaza border. "We don't intend to violate the calm, we would like to continue the truce, but we will act in any situation in which a terror attack against IDF soldiers or Israeli civilians needs to be thwarted," Barak said. "The IDF is prepared, alert and ready for any possibility. We are looking at this relative calm and we know that many things are happening under the surface," he warned. Last week, IDF special forces raided a tunnel dug by Hamas near the Israeli border which the army said was to be used in an imminent kidnap attempt. The raid, which involved an armed clash with Hamas gunmen, a number of whom were killed, led to over 60 rockets being fired on southern Israel in the following days, and a number of Israeli air strikes on rocket launching crews. "Kidnapping a soldier in the State of Israel is a strategic terror attack, which becomes a national problem within hours, and an international problem within 24 hours," Barak said.