(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Following are Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s remarks at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 11 June 2006:

"Over the weekend, serious events occurred in the Gaza Strip area. As a result of an incident which has yet to be fully inquired into, seven members of one family were killed on the Gaza beach. We have expressed our deep regret over the death of seven innocent civilians, we truly regret this.  Defense Minister Amir Peretz has instructed that an inquiry be held into the exact circumstances of the event. Of course, the exact details and the conclusions of the inquiry will be made public.

However, several things must be said: For many weeks, Kassam rockets – which are designed to maim and kill Israelis who live in nearby communities – have been fired from the Gaza Strip. This firing is very serious. It strikes at the fabric of life in communities in southern Israel and threatens peoples’ lives. I have just been informed that an employee at Sapir College was severely wounded earlier this morning in a direct hit. This is an unending series of terrorist attacks designed to strike at civilians.

I reject outright any and all attempts to impinge on the morality of the IDF. The IDF is the most moral military in the world; there has never been – and there isn’t now – a policy of attacking civilians. I support the IDF commanders and soldiers who are working to halt the attacks on Israeli citizens in the southern part of the country.

Hamas did not start operating this past weekend. For some time we have seen the involvement of Hamas in terrorist activities and in assisting terrorist activities. We note this and the statements that Hamas commanders have made recently and we will know when and how to deal with it.

I want to make one thing clear – it has never been Israel’s policy to attack innocent civilians. This is the state of Israel’s current and future policy. At the same time, we will continue to act with full force against the firing of Kassam rockets and will not refrain from operations that can foil rocket firings anywhere and in any situation, as necessary."