The operation in the Gaza Strip is designed, first and foremost, to bring about an improvement in the security reality for the residents of the south of the country. 

(Translated from Hebrew)

Citizens of Israel,
 
For approximately seven years, hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens in the south have been suffering from missiles being fired at them. Life in the south under missile barrages had become unbearable. Israel did everything in its power to fulfill the conditions of the calm in the south and enable normal life for its citizens in the communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip. The quiet that we offered was met with shelling.
 
No country can countenance such a reality, The lives of our citizens are not forfeit. In recent days, it became clear that Hamas is bent on conflict. Whoever heard Hamas’s statements understood that they decided to increase attacks on the residents of Israel by firing rockets and mortars indiscriminately.  In such a situation we had no alternative but to respond. We do not rejoice in battle but neither will we be deterred from it.
 
Preparations for the operation were extensive and thorough.  The Security Cabinet unanimously approved it on Wednesday, 26 December 2008, and when conditions were ripe, we decided to set the action in motion.
 
Yesterday (Friday), 26 December 2008, I held a series of discussions with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi, ISA Director Yuval Diskin and other security establishment personnel, and it was decided that the operation would begin.
 
The operation in the Gaza Strip is designed, first and foremost, to bring about an improvement in the security reality for the residents of the south of the country. This is liable to take time and each one of us must be patient so that we can complete the mission.
 
We want to restore the quiet and the tranquility and give the residents of the south the ability to live the normal lives that every country provides its citizens.
 
Citizens of Israel,
 
As I made clear to my fellow ministers, it may be that the number of missiles will increase in the near future and that they will reach more distant places than we have been used to.
 
To my regret, an Israeli civilian from Netivot, Beber Vaknin, was killed today, and several people were wounded. I share in the families’ sorrow and wish the wounded a quick recovery, both on my behalf and that of the Government. We have invested greatly in preparing for a conflict of this kind: Structural reinforcement, warning systems and other home front preparations.  I call on the residents of the south to fully comply with IDF Home Front Command instructions. These will save lives and must be treated accordingly.
 
On Thursday, 25 December 2008, I made it clear to the residents of Gaza that we are not acting against them and that we have no intention of punishing them for the actions of Hamas. We will see to the needs of the population in Gaza and will do our utmost to prevent a humanitarian crisis that will impinge upon residents’ lives.
 
Residents of Gaza, we are not your enemies and we are not fighting against you. This terrorist organization has brought disaster to two peoples. Israel is not fighting the Palestinian people but the Hamas terrorist organization that has taken it upon itself to act against the residents of Israel. Therefore, the targets that were attacked today were selected accordingly, with stress being placed on avoiding harm to innocents.
 
Our precise intelligence, from the IDF Intelligence Branch and the Israel Security Agency, enabled maximum strikes at those involved in terrorism and minimized harm to innocents. This is how we will act in the future, as may be necessary. Israel is currently focusing on striking at the terrorist organizations that are operating to undermine stability in the entire region. I hope that no other element in the region will think that while Israel is fighting in the south, that it will it is inattentive to what is happening in other areas. We will not hesitate to respond to any aggression against us.
 
During the day, we spoke with the leaders of the main countries of the world and made it very clear that the situation cannot continue and that we were compelled to take action in order to halt the aggression against our citizens. We also made it clear that Israel will, at the same time, make every effort to prevent a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.
 
Today, my heart is also with the Shalit family – Aviva, Noam, the children and grandfather Tzvi – who are certainly anxious this evening, along with very many others, over the fate of Gilad.
 
I call on the entire Israeli public to unite around the IDF operation and certainly appreciate the statements that have been issued this evening by opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who expressed support for Israel’s initiative, and by Israel Beteynu Party Chairman Avigdor Lieberman and the head of Meretz, Haim Oron. This is the time for all of us to unite in order to defend the residents of the south and the Government seeks to continue working on the basis of a broad national consensus in order to change the situation in the south of the country. All ministers and parties in the Government will give the defense establishment all the time that is necessary to carry out the mission with which it has been charged.
 
I would like to thank IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Ashkenazi and all IDF soldiers, and ISA Director Diskin and all of his fighters, for their courage, determination and daring.