While we make every effort to target only terrorist elements, Hizbullah strikes indiscriminatly at Israeli civilians and population centers.
This is a war against the axis of evil, of states that support terrorism and fan the flames of hatred. We are fighting Hizbullah, which is a front of the extremist regime in Tehran, which funds, directs and encourages its murderous activity. Its members serve the same murderous ideology and receive orders and funding from the terror headquarters in Tehran and Damascus.
The entire world must know that we did not choose the military option. The world must remember that we have no territorial conflict on the northern border with Lebanon or on the southern border with the Palestinian Authority. Israel has left the Gaza Strip and has not been in Lebanon for six years, but terror does not cease. Rather, it has continued to grow, crossing Israel’s terroritorial boundaries, physically as well as morally, and required us to act. This is a war that was forced on us after we did everything to prevent it.
The government of Lebanon abandoned the population of southern Lebanon to Hizbullah, which made them into a shield for their military power. Our current operation against Hizbullah has revealed its true face. We found rockets and missiles stored in private homes, sometimes in special rooms built to conceal them. We found Katyusha launchers firing from the courtyards of mosques, churches and schools. We found terrorists and munitions in every village, operations and communication centers in private homes. We found terror as part of everyday life in south Lebanon. Terror flourished, and the government of Lebanon remained silent.
While we make every effort to target only terrorist elements, Hizbullah strikes indiscriminatly at Israeli civilians and population centers. They send suicide bombers to explode in buses and restaurants. While they have no regard for human life, not giving a second thought to using innocent Lebanese civilians for their purposes, we make every effort to avoid harming uninvolved civilians. When they succeed in killing innocent train workers in Haifa, they consider it an operational success. When we kill innocent civilians, we consider it a tragedy to be investigated thoroughly.
I would like to state categorically: There is no Israeli pilot or commander who would issue an order to hurt uninvolved civilians. Whenever we intend to target a munitions depot in a building in which a family resides, Israeli Intelligence devotes great effort to find the telephone number of that family, phone them and ask them to left the house two hours before in order that they not be harmed. Yet, despite this, people are sometimes killed. This is a war zone, and the terrorist organizations know that their presence in populated areas will lead to civilian casualties.
I regret the outcome of the incident in Kafr Qana. We regret harming any adult or child, and we will continue to do everything to avoid it. We will not hesitate to investigate this incident claimed so many lives, in order to learn how to prevent loss of life in the future. We are not doing this to make a good impression on anyone. We are doing it for ourselves, for our own moral conscience.
We believe in the future of our region. It is therefore our aim to weaken the terrorist elements that threaten regional stability and to strengthen moderate elements, enabling them to assume responsibility for their own lives, their own countries. We do not wish to wage war against the Lebanese people, just as we have no interest in waging war against the Palestinian people. We are fighting terrorism in Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority.
At the same time, we demand that those who maintain sovereignty also take responsibility. We cannot continue to differentiate between sovereignty and responsibility – they go hand in hand.
Diplomatic efforts have intensified in recent days, alongside the military activity, and they complement one another. In coordination between myself and the Prime Minister, it was decided to restrict air force activity for 48 hours and to focus on countering attacks against Israel, while facilitating humanitarian aid to the Lebanese population in the combat areas. US Secretary of State Rice has left Israel in order to continue to create the diplomatic foundations for a change in reality, but the real outcome will be affected by events on the ground. There will therefore be no change in our determined stand.
The IDF will broaden its activity against Hizbullah. The IDF has succeeded in significantly damaging Hizbullah’s long-range rocket-launching ability. It is important to stress that the size of Hizbullah’s arsenal of rockets exceeded that of many regular armies. This arsenal still poses a threat to Israel, and we will continue to work to minimize Hizbullah’s rocket-launching capacity.
We will not agree to the return of Hizbullah’s flags waving on Israel’s border and posing a threat to the State of Israel. The multinational force to be stationed in Lebanon will be empowered by the United Nations to act firmly against any terrorist elements that will attempt to resume its activity in the field. The multinational force will have to train the Lebanese army and police the border crossings between Syria and Lebanon, in order to prevent the rearming of Hizbullah. We insist that the multinational force to be send to the region will be competent and well trained, and that it be given significant powers of enforcement, not symbolic, in order that it be able to fulfill its obligations in south Lebanon.
We also appealed to the international community to establish a civilian multinational force that will be responsible for the rehabilitation of Lebanon, so that Iran will not be able, through its funds and resources, to take root again within the population of southern Lebanon.
As a man of peace, I say: We must not agree to an immediate cease fire. Only by overcoming terrorism can we achieve peace.