(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert this afternoon (Wednesday), 16 March 2007, held a security consultation in order to discuss the situation in the Gaza Strip and the upsurge in Kassam missile fire at Sderot and at other communities in the area of the Gaza Strip. Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi, ISA Director Yuval Diskin, National Security Council Chairman Ilan Mizrahi and senior IDF and security establishment officials attended the consultation.

Prime Minister Olmert, Defense Minister Peretz and Foreign Minister Livni decided to allow the IDF and the security establishment to carry out a series of actions in order to hit those who launch Kassam missiles and their commanders, to disrupt launch capabilities and to strike at terrorist infrastructures. The Prime Minister made it clear that Israel cannot continue to show restraint when its citizens are being attacked; therefore, a harsh and severe response was decided upon.

Regarding the civilians that are suffering from Kassam rocket hits, Prime Minister Olmert directed that all of their needs be dealt with and that they be afforded all necessary assistance. Instructions to this effect were given to the security establishment, IDF Home Front Command and those Government ministries (Social Welfare and Social Services, Finance, Education, etc.) that assist populations that have been hit. "I oppose population evacuations," the Prime Minister said, "These are the exact pictures that Hamas has been waiting for and I am not prepared to grant any victory to terrorism.”

Parallel to the military measures and the provision of assistance to the civilian population, Israel will make an informational and diplomatic effort to inform the nations of the world of the severity of the situation. "The Hamas government is behind the terrorist actions and it cannot be that it also seeks international recognition and economic assistance from the nations of the world," Prime Minister Olmert said. Foreign Minister Livni said that her ministry is coordinating an intensive informational and diplomatic effort to communicate Israel’s position on the issue and to receive international legitimacy for its response.

Prime Minister Olmert telephoned Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal and updated him on the results of the consultation and its decisions. The Mayor updated the Prime Minister on the situation in Sderot.

The Cabinet will discuss the situation in the Gaza Strip at its meeting on Sunday 20 May 2007.